Review: Carmela Full of Wishes by Matt de la Pena

Carmela Full of Wishes by Matt de la Pena

Carmela Full of Wishes by Matt de la Pena, illustrated by Christian Robinson (9780399549045)

When Carmela woke up on her birthday, she knew that she was finally old enough to accompany her older brother as he did the family errands. The two headed out into their bustling urban neighborhood, passing shops, a nursing home, and street vendors. Her big brother though wasn’t as happy to have his little sister tagging along. He ignores her as much as possible, even as she jingles her bracelets and tries to get his attention. When Carmela discovers a dandelion growing in the sidewalk, she learns about making a wish before blowing on it. After a tumble though, it is smashed on the ground. Her brother though knows just what to do to make it better.

De la Pena and Robinson are the two that created Last Stop on Market Street together. In this second book, they tell the gentle story of a young girl reaching an important milestone in her life. The story is complex, revealing that her father has been removed from their home because he didn’t have the right papers. The relationship between the siblings is deftly shown, the older sibling not having much patience until something bad happens. Then his care demonstrates clearly his love for his little sister and leads to a culminating moment in the book.

Robinson’s art is wonderful. Done in painted collage, the illustrations have a warmth to them that works particularly well in this tale. He excels at showing relationships in his art, in creating special moments. The Valentine-like cut paper pages that show Carmela’s possible wishes are beautiful moments on the page.

Another gorgeous and diverse picture book from two masters, this one belongs in every library. Appropriate for ages 3-6.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: Albert’s Very Unordinary Birthday by Daniel Gray-Barnett

Albert's Very Unordinary Birthday by Daniel Gray-Barnett

Albert’s Very Unordinary Birthday by Daniel Gray-Barnett (9781525301186)

Albert lives a very ordinary life and even his birthday is just an ordinary day. No parties for him, instead he got birthday socks as his gift and plain toast for breakfast. All he could do was imagine that he had a candle to blow out on his piece of chocolate-cherry-ripple cake. Suddenly, there was a knock at the door and when Albert answered it, there stood his Grandma Z. She told his parents that they were just going to do ordinary birthday things, but their day together was anything but ordinary! They explored the woods, climbed a huge rock, looked at a dragon’s tooth, visited a palace, rode a roller coaster over and over again, and finally had a big slice of chocolate-cherry-ripple cake.

This import from Australia is an entirely energizing read. Nicely, the text doesn’t rhyme but instead holds together with its structure and tone. Told in a breathless voice once the fun starts, the book moves from its staid and dull beginnings into a hurtling pace of doing all sorts of marvelous things over the course of one amazing day. The text and illustrations work together well, showing them flying with birds, a dragon asleep in a cave nearby, and horses riding the coaster with them.

A wild ride of a birthday book, expect requests for chocolate-cherry-ripple cake in the future. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Kids Can Press.

3 New Picture Books Featuring Families

Harriet Gets Carried Away by Jessie Sima

Harriet Gets Carried Away by Jessie Sima (9781481469111)

The creator of Not Quite Narwhal returns with a new book. Harriet loved to dress up all the time, so of course her birthday party was a dress-up one. When her fathers tell her that they need to pick up some more supplies, she dresses in her penguin “errand-running” costume. At the store, she leaves her fathers at the deli counter and heads off to find party hats, but instead discovers a group of penguins buying ice. Soon she has been carried off with them and up into their hot air balloons, traveling back home. Harried tried and tried to get home, but nothing worked until a kind whale agreed to carry her back in exchange for her bow tie. With the help of even more friends, this time feathered ones, Harriet is back before her fathers even miss her.

Sima captures the anticipation of a birthday party in this picture book that then takes a wild twist. When her parents tell her not to “get carried away,” it is clear that Harriet isn’t really capable of not being entirely herself. The book has a wonderful pace to it, increased at times with the use of panels that offset the full page illustrations. There is attention to diversity in the characters and the book also features gay fathers, something that is treated so matter-of-factly that it is delightful. A great read for birthdays or any day. Appropriate for ages 3-5. (Reviewed from library copy.)

Hello Lighthouse by Sophie Blackall

Hello Lighthouse by Sophie Blackall (9780316362382)

This is the story of a lighthouse and its dedicated keeper. When the keeper first arrives at the lighthouse, he is all alone, making meals for one, painting the rooms and dreaming of someone. Then his wife arrives and the two of them care for the lighthouse together. They rescue people from a shipwreck together. When the keeper falls ill, it is up to his wife to not only care for the lighthouse but for him too. Then when she is pregnant and in labor, it is his turn to care for both of them. They make a life together with the sea and the beacon they care for. But eventually modernization comes and they are replaced with technology. Still, they don’t more far from the sea and their light.

From the initial page one knows that this is a special book. The dappled sea stretches from greens to seashell pink as it crosses the page. Other pages are filled with the drama of dark storms with their white capped waves. There is the stillness of fog, the beauty of darkness broken by the light. Each page is different and new. Blackall captures the quiet of life in a lighthouse, the spiral staircase, the duty and care, the wonder of the sea. This is a quiet yet dramatic book, exquisitely written and illustrated. Appropriate for ages 4-7. (Reviewed from library copy.)

Mommy_s Khimar by Jamilah Thompkins- Bigelow

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

A little girl watches her mother put on her khimar, her flowing headscarf. Her mother has so many of them, all colors and patterns. The little girl loves to play with them, twirling around and imagining that she is a queen. She pretends she’s a superhero, a bird or a shooting star when she wears her favorite bright yellow one. She sometimes wears the khimar to see family or to go to the mosque. At night, she has to take off the khimar, but she still dreams about it and how it connects her to her mother.

This lovely picture book beautifully ties a child’s playful imagination to wearing a hijab or khimar. It’s a book that embraces the tradition of wearing a headscarf, showing that it is normal, beautiful and part of being her family. Throughout the book, the illustrations are bright colored and shine. The loving relationship between mother and daughter is highlighted on most of the pages too. A winning picture book of Muslim American life. Appropriate for ages 3-5. (Reviewed from copy provided by Salaam Reads.)

3 Picture Books to Celebrate YOU!

Crown An Ode to the Fresh Cut by Derrick Barnes

Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut by Derrick Barnes, illustrated by Gordon C. James (9781572842243)

This picture book celebrates the power of a fresh haircut, the transformation that comes with it and the empowerment that it brings. Written in second person, the poetry draws the reader in and right onto the barber chair with a drape that becomes a superhero cape and men around that seem presidential and majestic. There is affirmation in this book, a celebration of the barbershop, the culture and the community. The text of the book reads like slam poetry, speaking truths and adding wonder. The illustrations are paintings that capture the place but also the joy of the haircut. The combination is exceptional, a book that belongs in every public library in every community. Appropriate for ages 5-7. (Reviewed from library copy.)

When_s My Birthday by Julie Fogliano

When’s My Birthday by Julie Fogliano, illustrated by Christian Robinson (9781626722934)

When I was little, I asked every day for an entire year whether it was my birthday and then realized how very long it was between them! So this book is exactly the book I needed as a small child. This picture book ask the question over and over again about when a birthday is coming, dreaming of cake and presents and a party. Fogliano uses rhythm and internal rhymes to give the book a fast paced structure that almost sings. It is quick and funny and infectious. Robinson’s illustrations are a treat with their use of collage and a diverse cast of children longing for their special day. The book ends with a birthday, just as it should. Share this one with children longing for their next birthday or who are just about to have one. Appropriate for ages 2-4. (Review copy supplied by Roaring Brook Press.)

The World Shines for You by Jeffrey Burton

The World Shines for You by Jeffrey Burton, illustrated by Don Clark (9781481496322)

This shining and shimmery board book is done in a large format. The thick pages are filled with metallic shine that is embossed on the pages to create texture that can be felt by little fingers, allowing it to be explored by touch. The text of the book is simple and inviting, exploring all of the ways in which the world shines. There are snowflakes and flowers and forests and leaves, it all comes together in a celebration of that child. A great book to share aloud with one or two children and discuss the pictures together. There is so much to explore here! Appropriate for ages 1-3. (Reviewed from library copy.)

The Not-So-Faraway Adventure by Andrew Larsen

The Not So Faraway Adventure by Andrew Larsen

The Not-So-Faraway Adventure by Andrew Larsen, illustrated by Irene Luxbacher (InfoSoup)

Theo’s grandfather, Poppa, had traveled all over the world. He has a big trunk packed with items from his travels. Now it is Poppa’s birthday and Theo wants to give him the perfect gift. She realizes that it would be wonderful to go on an adventure together. When he speaks of traveling to the ocean once, Theo decides that they will head to the beach and eat at a restaurant. They create a map of their plans together and the next day their board a bus. Soon they reach the beach and the water which they pretend is the ocean. It’s a beach where Poppa came as a little boy. The two spend time on the beach, eat gazpacho and then head home on the bus. Now Theo has items to add to the trunk that are from their adventure together.

A dynamic picture book, this book demonstrates that adventures can be right in our own cities and need not take much time, money or effort. It is also a beautiful look at a granddaughter spending time with her Poppa and a grandfather who has more than enough energy to keep up with her. The urban setting is captured with people of various ethnicity on the page. It’s a bustling and busy place but also welcoming.

Luxbacher’s illustrations are done in PhotoShop and have the feel of collage. Textures and patterns are used throughout, creating a setting that is rich and layered. The city is done with just enough pops of color to keep it dynamic and not so many to make it entirely overwhelming. The page on the beach where they imagine the water is the ocean is captivating with the water entirely swallowing the page and filled with glimpses of their imagination.

A lovely look at a grandchild and grandfather going on their own personal adventure together. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from digital galley received from Kids Can Press and Edelweiss.

 

A Big Surprise for Little Card by Charise Mericle Harper

A Big Surprise for Little Card by Charise Mericle Harper

A Big Surprise for Little Card by Charise Mericle Harper (InfoSoup)

Released February 9, 2016.

Every card has a special grown up job, except for Little Card and Long Card. There were cards who were price tags, others were office folders, others were postcards. So the two cards waited for their special letter to arrive. But on the day the letter arrived, the two cards collided and cards went everywhere. Little Card picked up a letter and read that he was going to be a birthday card! He got lots of training and found that he loved everything about being a birthday card. But one day when he got home, Long Card was there and told him there had been a mix up. She was the birthday card and he was a different type of card. It was too late to be trained again, so Little Card was sent off immediately to work at the library as a library card. He tried to use his birthday card training at his new job, but his loud singing wasn’t welcome. Little Card soon learned though what special things were available at the library and was thrilled in the end to know that he could be at the library more than once a year!

This clever take on libraries and having a library card is very nicely structured. The exuberance of Little Card makes the book read aloud well. Children will enjoy the pleasure of the birthday card part of the book, the loud singing, the cake, and the balloons. One might think that that would overshadow the more quiet library portion of the book, but the author made sure to make the library part just as appealing, so the result is that libraries are shown as being just as much fun and just as joyous as a birthday party. Hurrah!

The illustrations of the book are just as fun and buoyant as the story itself. Done in ink washes, pencil, pen and ink, and stamps, they were also colored digitally. They have a nice simplicity to them that will make this book easy to share with groups. The sprightly Little Card dances (literally) across the page and invites children to have a great time with the book and at the library.

A jaunty picture book about libraries, this book will be welcome for library tour groups as well as for introducing children to libraries as a place of fun. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from ARC received from Candlewick Press.

Review: Bernice Gets Carried Away by Hannah E. Harrison

Bernice Gets Carried Away by Hannah Harrison

Bernice Gets Carried Away by Hannah E. Harrison (InfoSoup)

Bernice is not having a good time at the birthday party and the cloudy day suits her mood. Her piece of birthday cake didn’t have a frosting rose on it like the others. Her soda was warm and tasted like prune grapefruit flavor. And then the big kids hit the pinata down before she even got a swing and the only candy Bernice got was a stepped-on gumdrop. So when the clown showed up with a huge bunch of balloons, Bernice grabbed them away and took them all for herself. But there may have been a few too many, and she floated up and up. She floated past other animals in the tree who were having a bad day too. She floated up until she got stuck on the bottom of the gloomy cloud. When she looked down, she realized that her problems were pretty small from a distance. Then she set out to change her day to a sunny one after all.

Harrison captures all of the elements of a bad mood and a horrible day. When you are already in a bad mood, nothing much can fix it except yourself. Harrison makes sure that it’s a substantially bad day, one that most children would have difficulty coping with. She does it with subtle humor, making the single gumdrop a stepped-on one and the soda flavor truly icky. She also makes sure that while the result is a more cheerful day, it takes a little while to get there and the change though fast does make sense.

The cover alone made me laugh out loud. Harrison knows her cats and no creature can look quite as grumpy as a wronged feline. The facial expressions of all of the animals are priceless. The paintings are detailed to the point where you can see individual hairs on the animals faces. Each one has a distinct personality, even if they are one in a crowd of little animals. Then the mood change happens and it’s like Bernice is a completely different little kitten with wide eyes and an internal glow.

Purely satisfying and fun, this picture book is a happy treat to share. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from Dial Books.

Review: Bulldozer’s Big Day by Candace Fleming

Bulldozers Big Day by Candace Fleming

Bulldozer’s Big Day by Candace Fleming, illustrated by Eric Rohmann (InfoSoup)

Bulldozer is very excited as he heads to the construction site one morning. It’s his special day and he wants to invite all of the other bigger trucks to his party. So he asks them to guess what day it is. Digger says that the day is a scooping day and keeps on scooping dirt. Dump Truck says it’s a sifting day. Cement Mixer knows that it’s a stirring day. One after another, the different trucks insist that it’s just a normal day and they are doing what they always do. Bulldozer gets more and more dejected as the other trucks talk to him and is about to leave the construction site entirely when happy whistles start to blow and the trucks reveal their birthday surprise for him.

Fleming charmingly combines two deep loves of small children: trucks and birthdays. She engages just enough with each of the trucks, allowing young vehicle lovers time to enjoy each truck and what they do on a construction site. Children will feel for Bulldozer as his attempts to talk about his party are foiled by each truck. The pacing is well done and leads up to a greatly satisfying ending.

Rohmann’s thick-lined illustrations work particularly well here. His Bulldozer character reads as young and jaunty as he flies over the construction area without touching the ground. The other trucks are solid and dependable. They come off as very friendly but also busy, rather like parents who are distracted but kind. Rohmann presents the birthday reveal on one double page spread that is very joyful and lots of fun. Expect a cheer of joy from your listening audience.

Get this into the hands of toddlers who like trucks and who may be approaching a birthday of their own. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from copy received from Atheneum Books for Young Readers.

Review: Max Makes a Cake by Michelle Edwards

max makes a cake

Max Makes a Cake by Michelle Edwards, illustrated by Charles Santoso

Max was growing up, he could dress himself, almost tie his shoes, and he knew the Four Questions for Passover in Hebrew and English.  It was his mother’s birthday and he wanted to make her a cake.  But when his little sister started to cry and Max’s dad took her for her nap.  Max waited and waited for his dad to come back to bake the cake, but his sister just kept waking up and crying.  So Max decided to make some frosting to help.  It turned out very nicely, a mix of jam and cream cheese.  Max knew that to bake a cake, he had to wait for his father.  But then he had a great idea, one perfect for Passover.

Edwards has written a story that organically incorporates Passover and its meaning.  She shows a warm and loving Jewish family with a father who takes expert care of his children.  Max’s clever solution to the cake is nicely foreshadowed in the book but is also a wonderful surprise solution that readers will not see coming.  It is also a pleasure to see a picture book about a child who solves a problem himself with creativity.

Santoso’s art conveys the same warmth as the text.  He uses humor throughout in his images, with a cheery note.  His depictions of Max are particularly well done as he solves the problem but not without a little mess.

Clever and creative, this is a welcome addition to public library’s Passover collections as well as a great choice for birthday story times.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from digital copy received from Edelweiss and Random House.