3 New Picture Books Where Imaginations Soar

Blue Rider by Geraldo Valerio

Blue Rider by Geraldo Valerio (9781554989812)

This wordless picture book tells the story of a little girl who discovers a blue book on the ground. She lives in a bustling gray city filled with people moving in all directions. Taking the book home, she reads it and the blue horse on the pages inspires her. Soon the blue horse is flying above the city and then moving to the countryside where the art becomes more geometric and even more colorful. Out of that burst of color, the girl emerges riding the blue horse. Then we are back in her bedroom where her dreams and her room are filled with color.

Valerio tells the story of how art can inspire and create wonder and a space to dream. The illustrations are done in mixed media, combining paintings with paper collage. The edges become more frayed as the art from the book takes over the page. The movement to a more abstract type of illustration is particularly effective, bursting across the page. A great picture book to share with art classes who will be inspired themselves. Appropriate for ages 4-7. (Reviewed from library copy.)

The Stone Bird by Jenny McCartney

The Stone Bird by Jenny McCartney, illustrated by Patrick Benson (9781541514553)

Eliza finds a stone shaped just like an egg on the beach one day. She keeps it, even though her mother says it’s not an egg. She sleeps with it under her pillow and then places it on her nightstand, until one day it transforms into a little gray bird made of stone. Eliza takes the stone bird with her everywhere. Then one morning there is a little stone egg next to the bird when she wakes up. Eliza makes a nest out of a pair of socks because winter has arrived. When spring comes again, there are two stone birds in the nest. Then one summer morning, the birds are gone. Eliza misses them dreadfully until her birthday morning when she sees two gray birds on the roof outside her window.

A story of transformation and belief in magic, this picture book is a gentle tale. Eliza is shown mostly alone or with her family and the focus is on her relationship with the stone egg and stone birds. That narrowed focus serves the story well, allowing it to be about seasons passing and the way that birds would act. The illustrations are soft and show the changing seasons with clarity. They have an intimate feel, particularly when it is Eliza and her rocks. A quiet book that asks you to let your imagination soar with Eliza’s. Appropriate for ages 3-5. (Reviewed from copy provided by Andersen Press.)

Groundwood Logos Spine

They Say Blue by Jillian Tamaki (9781419728518)

This rich picture book looks at colors and inspires children to look deeper at what the colors inspire. While the sky is blue, so is water, until you hold it in your hand and it is clear and sparkles like diamonds when tossed in the air. There are hidden bright colors like the gold of an egg yolk and the red of blood in our bodies. Golden waves of the field look like they could be sailed on with a boat. Until the gray clouds come. Seasons bring their own colors. Black is the color of hair and also the crows outside the window who fly off into the colorful sky.

This is one of those books that you can read over and over again, different words and illustrations touching you each time. For a picture book for very young children, it has an unexpected depth, inviting children to see in a new way as they experience their days. The playfulness of color and imagination delight. The illustrations are exceptional, created with acrylic paint and PhotoShop. Rich and filled with color and sweeping lines, they carry the reader away into dreams of seasons, weather and wonder. A great picture book. Appropriate for ages 3-5. (Reviewed from library copy.)

3 Colorful New Picture Books

Every Color Soup by Jorey Hurley

Every Color Soup by Jorey Hurley (9781481469999)

Through simple and colorful images, this picture book celebrates the colors of foods around us. The book walks readers through the ingredients in a pot of “Every Color Soup” made of vegetables and lentils. Lentils provide the blue, eggplants the purple, tomatoes for red, and so on. The result is a concept book that is inviting and offers plenty of space for little listeners to talk about food, colors and cooking. Have a plate of rainbow veggies ready to share after reading this one! Appropropriate for ages 2-4.(Reviewed from copy provided by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.)

Festival of Colors by Kabir Sehgal and Surishtha Sehgal

Festival of Colors by Kabir Sehgal and Surishtha Sehgal, illustrated by Vashti Harrison (9781481420495)

Two children prepare for the Holi, the Indian festival of colors. They gather specific flowers in the garden to make the powder for Holi. The book names the colors and flowers, creating a lovely quiet moment. The family then heads out together dressed all in white with their bowls and plates of colors. They are joined by friends and neighbors until suddenly, the colors burst and the powder poofs. Everyone shouts “Holi,hai” and then they head home. The final pages of the book tell of the meaning of the festival about fresh starts, friendship and forgiveness. The authors offer a final note about Holi at the end of the book as well. The illustrations are digital and have a cartoon smoothness about them that is modern. The colors are rich and vibrant, just right for this book about Holi and colors. There are few books about Holi in a picture book format, so get this one on your library shelves. Appropriate for ages 2-4. (Reviewed from copy provided by Beach Lane Books.)

Holi Colors by Rina Singh

Holi Colors by Rina Singh (9781459818491)

This board book is illustrated with photographs awash in color. The images vibrantly show Holi both with close-ups of people’s faces covered in colors and in images where the air itself is filled with color. The text is gently rhyming and invites even the youngest readers into the joy of Holi and a delight in the saturated colors on the page. Joyous and bright, this board book is just right for every library. (Reviewed from library copy.)

What’s Your Favorite Color? by Eric Carle and Friends

What's Your Favorite Color by Eric Carle and Friends

What’s Your Favorite Color? by Eric Carle and Friends (9780805096149, Amazon)

Eric Carle and fifteen other well-known illustrators offer their favorite colors and why they love them. Carle’s bright yellow pick on the first pages shows the skill needed to handle some colors well. Others like Brian Collier select colors that reflect their personal lives. The late Anna Dewdney tells of her love of purple as a small child. Philip Stead takes a whimsical look at green and elephants. Yuyi Morales ties her hot pink to the bougainvillea flowers of Mexico. Each is a person story of life and art intertwined into color.

Turning the pages in this collection is a treat. Each page is dedicated to a specific color. Then each is drawn by a different illustrator. The result are a series of lovely surprises, some subtle and gray other vivid and bright. The book ends with Uri Shulevitz’s selection of all colors as his favorites, tying the entire book together nicely. The book finishes with information on each of the illustrators who contributed.

A rich and lovely look at color that will lead readers to discover new illustrators and seek out their work in all colors. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.

 

Blue Ethel by Jennifer Black Reinhardt

Blue Ethel by Jennifer Black Reinhardt

Blue Ethel by Jennifer Black Reinhardt (9780374303822, Amazon)

Ethel is a cat who is old and fat. She is black and white and she has a routine to her days. She first surveys the land from her porch. Then she watches the weather. She chases insects and then explores the sidewalk where she has a favorite square where she likes to roll. But one day, someone has used chalk on the sidewalk square and when Ethel rolls on it, she becomes blue! The other cats look at her very strangely and Ethel runs home to hide. The next morning, Ethel feels blue and licks herself into blue stripes and white stripes. Another kitten is outside waiting for her and he is pink! The two together do Ethel’s routine with a colorful change at the end.

Reinhardt shows in this picture book that even old cats can learn colorful new tricks. Ethel is a wonderful look at the familiar routines turned on their heads. Her life is filled with simple pleasures that make her feel powerful and in charge. But that is all changed with one color. Still, Ethel also shows that while change may be hard, it isn’t impossible.

The illustrations are silly and quirky. The area that Ethel surveys each morning is filled with fake animals like deer, flamingos and one large rhino. It takes what we see as normal lawn ornaments one step farther into farce. Ethel herself is rather odd looking and therefore quite delightful as a character.

A look at colors, changes and resilience. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.

 

The Blue Hour by Isabelle Simler

The Blue Hour by Isabelle Simler

The Blue Hour by Isabelle Simler (9780802854889, Amazon)

In between day and night, there is a special time of day: twilight or the blue hour. This picture book looks as blue animals during this brief time of day, capturing their blue beauty against the blue of the setting. There are animals like the blue fox from the arctic. Poison blue dart frogs are tropical. The plants and animals come from around the world, some from our own backyards like violets and bluebirds. Throughout the book, there is a feel of the magical time of day and quiet it brings as night settles in.

Simler’s words are poetic. Her collection of plants and animals move from being more active to a quieter feel as the book progresses. This arc follows the way that nature quiets before nightfall. The end pages of the book offer information on different types of blue and then a map with the various animals on it.

The art is very special with the blue tones dominant throughout. There is a peacefulness and simplicity to it that matches the time of day perfectly. The various animals and plants are shown almost luminous on the blue background, their fur, feathers, and petals lit from within. This adds to the magical feel of the book and the sense that readers are looking at something almost secret.

A blue-tiful book about nature, time and the wonder around us. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from Eerdmans.

Review: Black Cat, White Cat by Silvia Borando

Black Cat White Cat by Silvia Borando

Black Cat, White Cat by Silvia Borando (InfoSoup)

Black Cat is entirely black, from his ears to his tail. White Cat is entirely white. Black Cat only goes out during the day when he can see swallows flying, White Cat only goes out at night when the stars are out. Then one day, Black Cat decides to see the night. And that is how Black Cat and White Cat meet. The two decide to explore day and night together. The night has fireflies while the day has bumblebees. The day has daisies, birds and butterflies while the night has snakes, bats and mice. The two cats become best friends, and eventually have kittens of their own. And you will never guess what color they are!

Borando is an Italian author. Here she uses lovely simple language to convey the wonder of both night and day as seen through a fresh set of eyes. The budding friendship of the two cats is captured in a lively way on the page, each of them sharing their world with the other. The illustrations and design of the book is what makes it special. The use of just the two colors on the page, black and white is done with a subtle humor. Borando creates scenarios where the black cat provides the dark background for the white cat to appear against in the day time and then reverses it. These clever little twists are a joy.

Graphically interesting and beautifully designed, this picture book even has a surprise ending to enjoy. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: Snap! by Hazel Hutchins

Snap by Hazel Hutchins

Snap! by Hazel Hutchins, illustrated by Dušan Petričić

Released September 22, 2015.

Evan had a new set of crayons that were perfect until he accidentally broke the brown crayon. He tried to fix it by pressing it together and taping it, but nothing worked. Then Evan realized that one broken crayon is actually two crayons! As Evan continued to color, more crayons snapped. When he stepped on one, he found that he could create different things with the crushed color and with others without wrappers. Evan’s only green crayon disappeared under the stairs and then he didn’t have any green at all, until he discovered that yellow and blue combined to make green. Soon Evan was mixing all sorts of colors. Finally he is left with only three colors: red, blue and green and no space to color any more. But Evan has starting thinking in new ways and finds a way to make new discoveries and art.

Hutchins has taken a universal moment in childhood, when the first crayon breaks and made it into a celebration of creativity and thinking in new ways. The discoveries outweigh the loss of a whole crayon, creating new opportunities and new ways to color and draw. The part where he steps on a crayon is so well done, allowing youngsters to see situations like that as a chance for discovery. Throughout the tone is jolly and inviting, just the antidote to perfectionism we need.

Petričić’s art is very appealing. Evan is a boy who is colored the same bright colors as his crayons, allowing him to pop on the page even as it fills with art. At the same time, he is rendered partially as an uncolored person, which makes for a very modern and intriguing look. The scribbles and child art are done well, always filled with experimentation and ideas. 

Combine this with a crayon craft and you will have a great program, just be ready for some of the children to snap your crayons on purpose! Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from digital galley received from Annick Press and NetGalley.

Review: Red by Michael Hall

red

Red: A Crayon’s Story by Michael Hall

A blue crayon labeled as red is not very good at being red at all. His fire trucks were all wrong. He thought more practice might help, but his strawberries didn’t look anything like Scarlet’s. When he tried to mix with other colors, like Yellow to make orange, it turned very green on him. His parents tried to warm him up with a scarf, but it didn’t work either. Everyone had advice for him, like just trying harder or sharpening himself to a new point. Nothing made any difference. Then he made a new friend who asked him to make an ocean for her boat to sail on. Red protested at first because oceans aren’t red, but then agreed to try. And suddenly he realized that he had been blue all along!

Told in symbolism that children will immediately understand, this book works on a variety of levels.  It can inspire children to be who they really are on the inside and to be true to that and not the labels that society puts on you. Others will read it as a metaphor for being gay or transgendered and I think it works beautifully for that as well.  Perhaps the best praise that can be given this book is that it can mean so many different things to people.

Hall’s artwork is simple and lovely. His various crayons are different heights and have wonderful color names that range from more normal colors to “Cocoa Bean” and “Hazelnut” and “Grape.”  They all have something to say too, helpful and not-so-helpful alike.  But they are Red’s community and children will see in them things that are said to people who are different in some way.

A celebration of inner diversity, this picture book is all about accepting and celebrating our differences.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from HarperCollins.

Review: Quest by Aaron Becker

quest

Quest by Aaron Becker

This follow-up to the Caldecott Honor winning Journey continues the wordless travels of the two characters from the first book.  The two children head off on a fantasy quest this time after a king comes through a door and hands them a map.  He is dragged off by soldiers but as he goes, he drops his orange crayon, one that is just like their red and purple ones.  The two children go through the door and find themselves in a new world.  They embark on a quest to bring all of the crayons together, venturing into the depths of the sea, onto desert islands, to pyramids and temples.  At each one they gather another crayon color until they reach the pinnacle of the temple where the bad guys almost get them…

Becker has created a wordless book that has the same appeal as the first book.  The pace here is rapid, giving only a few images for each color that is gathered.  That offers the wild pace of an adventure novel or film, so it suits the subject.  The fast ride adds greatly to the appeal here, never bogging down and always revealing new visual wonders to explore. 

Becker’s art shines on the page.  He creates entire worlds that have real depth to them, that take readers on amazing adventures.  There are great details of color on the page, and I love the way that the various creative ideas of the children all remain in place at the end of the book, completely come to life. 

A celebration of art and creativity, this book along with its predecessor will become beloved reads.  Appropriate for ages 3-6.

Reviewed from library copy.