Child of Glass by Beatrice Alemagna (9781592703036)
This unusual French picture book is deep, questioning and modern. Giselle was born near Florence and Bilbao. She was born made entirely of glass, transparent and capturing the light of life around her. People could also see right into her head, viewing her thoughts as she had them. If she was fearful or worried, people would reassure her when they saw those thoughts. As she grew older though, her thoughts were sometimes very dark and sad. When people saw those things, they grew angry, asking how she could think that way and demanded that she stop. The tension of trying to change caused fractures in her glass body. Finally, Giselle decided to leave and find another place to live. But every place treated her exactly the same. Eventually, Giselle returned home, deciding to live as she is without trying to change, entirely transparent and whole.
This picture book wrestles with the very idea that children have dark thoughts, that they are worried and afraid at times, that their imaginations are not always light and playful. It’s a story about being different and being forced to conform uniquely to the crowd’s ideas. Yet it is also a story about finding oneself, living life on your own terms. The book is about reality, a lovely allegory to the importance put upon conforming and the necessity for us all to live our authentic lives, transparently.
The illustrations are complex and filled with different media. They include collage, different types of pens, markers, and pencils. They are layered and dramatic, capturing the mood of each part of the story. Some of the pages are transparent, looking through Giselle’s thoughts and emotions.
Unique and fascinating, this picture book embraces the dark side of our minds and the beauty of individuals. Appropriate for ages 5-7.
Reviewed from copy provided by Enchanted Lion Books.
Loving Hands by Tony Johnston, illustrated by Amy June Bates (9780763679934)
This tender and moving picture book looks at the connection between parent and child from babyhood all the way through adulthood and old age. The book begins with pregnancy and birth, then moves on to the activities of toddlers and childhood like pat-a-cake and skinned knees. The book moves on to baking together, star gazing, and gardening. Full of simple pleasures, the child becomes an adult who visits home now and again. Until he returns to care for his mother and they watch the stars once again together.
First, I must tell you that the mother does not die at the end of the book. So the book stays hopeful and filled with warmth all the way through. The focus on hands is lovely, connecting the two of them through their activities and their loving touches. Johnston’s writing is superb, lifting the book up to something splendid and special. The verse in the book has a repeating rhythm and near rhymes that create beautiful moments on each page.
The artwork by Bates exudes warmth on the page. The characters are lit from within by their connection and love for one another. Each image captures that connection through body language and expressions.
A lovely book for mothers and children alike. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from library copy.
This Is How We Do It by Matt Lamothe (9781452150185, Amazon)
The lives of seven children from around the world are documented in this engaging nonfiction picture book. A child each from Italy, Japan, Iran, India, Peru, Russia and Uganda share their daily lives. They talk about what they eat, where they live, their schools, how they play and where they sleep. This is an intimate look at these children and their lifestyles that offers a way to look at how cultures are different but also how certain things are universal as well.
Lamothe worked with seven real families to create the book, showing photographs of them at the end of the book. The focus on concrete things that make up our lives offers a tangible way for children to see cultures and explore differences and similarities. It’s a clever way to invite children to explore and learn.
The illustrations are phenomenal and with their fine details offer the same sort of window as photographs. While it is great to see the photographs at the end, they offer a sort of confirmation that the illustrations truly have captured the lives of these children. These are illustrations to pore over and enjoy, allowing them to transport you around the globe.
Wonderful for classrooms and libraries, this nonfiction picture book is exceptional. Appropriate for ages 5-9.
Reviewed from copy received from Chronicle Books.
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.
The Dead Bird by Margaret Wise Brown, illustrated by Christian Robinson (InfoSoup)
This is a reillustrated edition of the classic picture book by Margaret Wise Brown. In the story, a group of children find a dead bird in the park. They check for a heartbeat but don’t find one. They are very sorry the bird has died and decide to have a funeral for it. So they dig a hole and fill it with sweet ferns and flowers. The sing a song and cry a bit too. Then they head off to play. They do visit for awhile, bringing fresh flowers to the little grave, and they slowly stop remembering to come.
This is such an honest book about death and grief. It captures that intense wave of sorrow upon finding a dead animal, the immediate connection children have to that creature and the importance of following through in a process of loss. The writing is superb, capturing these complex feelings but also not endowing them with too much weight. There is also a feeling of time passing and life moving on, even though the sadness was so large at first.
Robinson’s illustrations are engagingly simple with whimsical touches. One of the children wears butterfly or fairy wings as they play and another is in a fox mask and tail. They have a large dog along with them and a kite to fly. The children have the friendly expressions of Fisher Price dolls, a curve of smile and dot eyes. The illustrations show the same kind of frankness that marks the text as well.
Refreshingly honest and forthright, this picture book is a smart reworking of a classic story that will resonate with today’s children. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from library copy.
The Wonderful Things You Will Be by Emily Winfield Martin (InfoSoup)
Released on August 25, 2015.
The voice of a parent narrates this book that looks to the future for a young child. The narrator has known from the time the child was very small that they were special, big-hearted, wild and wise. They also emphasize that the child is unique, because it’s the first time there’s been YOU. The emphasis here is on living a life that is bold and interesting but first and foremost it has to be filled with love. And this picture book shines with it.
This simple book focuses on celebrating the potential of each and every child, telling them that they are special and unique and important to the world. The book is written in rhyming couplets that have a gentle rhythm to them, creating almost a lullaby on the page and a wonderful way to send a child off to sleep.
The illustrations are lush paintings that change from one page to the next, showing different families and different children on each page. This furthers the idea that every child has this potential inside of them too. The families are ethnically diverse and most of the pages only have one parent shown, if any at all. The focus is on the child.
This would be a great new baby gift or with the way that it ends with the child growing up, a graduation gift too. But it’s best place is being read aloud to children so that they can understand how incredible they are. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from digital galley received from Random House Books for Young Readers and Edelweiss.
The Everlasting Embrace by Gabrielle Emanuel, illustrated by E. B. Lewis
A toddler spends her day in Mali strapped to her mother’s back. Told from her point of view, this picture book celebrates the strong bond that occurs between mother and child as they spend their entire day together. The little one is bound to her back and they move as one. She is there as her mother beats millet with a pestle. There when her mother carries it back home in a basket balanced on her head. During the day, her mother tickles her, reaching behind to touch her little girl. They dance together, the rhythms of their day lulling the baby to sleep at times. They shelter together in the shade the big basket of mangoes makes when her mother carries it. When they return home, the little girl carries her teddy bear bound to her back. These days together are precious as the little girl will soon be too big to carry all day. But the bond they have formed together will never go away.
Emanuel lived in Mali for a year after graduating from college. While she was there, she shared stories aloud with a little girl, but found that there were no picture books that she could read her about her own country and lifestyle. So Emanuel created this one. It is a very strong debut picture book with writing that is confident and a point of view that is unique. Told from the view of the little girl on her mother’s back, one never worries that she is being neglected or ignored as the mother goes through her day. Rather one quickly realizes that she is content, cared for and completely part of her mother’s daily life.
Lewis is an extraordinary illustrator. He captures life in Mali clearly on the page, showing the mother and daughter together at home, walking through the markets, doing chores and spending time together even when the mother is busy doing other things. There is a joy in his images, a dedication to truly capture this country and its way of life on the page.
Strong, beautiful and unique, this picture book takes children on a journey to Mali where they will see life lived differently and warmly. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from copy received from Viking.
Little Humans by Brandon Stanton
The photographer behind Humans of New York brings his talent to a children’s book. Using photographs taken on the streets of New York, this book speaks to the power of children. Children may fall down, but they get back up, because they are tough. But they still need love and friends. Children are helpful, playful and talented. They learn and grow. They also know how to ask for help when they need it. And they do so very much so well that they just might insist they are are not little after all, they are big!
On each and every page, Stanton celebrates urban culture and diversity. There are children of every color here, each with their own unique sense of style and and distinct personality that pops on the page. His photographs speak volumes beyond the text that does little more than support the gorgeous, hip photographs.
A dynamic and diverse book that can be enjoyed by the smallest of children. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from library copy.
Wild by Emily Hughes
When the baby girl was found in the woods by the animals, the entire woods took her in. Bird taught her to talk. Bear taught her to fish. Fox taught her how to play. Everything was good, until she met some people in the woods. They took her home with them. A famous psychiatrist took her in and tried to make her civilized. They combed her hair, tried to teach her to speak, frowned at her table manners and didn’t appreciate the way she played. Everything they did was wrong. The girl was not happy at all. But then one day, she found her wild once more.
Told only in brief sentences, Hughes lets her art tell much of the story here. And what a glorious story it is. It’s the story of a child perfectly at home in the wild and with the animals. She doesn’t long for society or civilization in any way. She’s the opposite of many classic book characters like Curious George. She rejects the rules and substitutes her own.
The art has a wonderful wild quality as well. It is lush and filled with details. The woods have a flowing green that is mesmerizing. Once the humans enter the story, things become more angular and rigid. The return to the woods is beautiful and completely satisfying.
Hughes has tapped into what every child dreams of, living in the woods with the animals and thriving. Everyone who reads this will want to be wild themselves. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from library copy.