Dandelion’s Dream by Yoko Tanaka (9781536204537)
A dandelion in a field of flowers turns into a real lion. Dandelion has feet and paws and heads off on an adventure. A train is rushing past and Dandelion hops on board, riding right at the front of the locomotive. Tumbling off, Dandelion lands on the back of a large woolly sheep. From there, Dandelion hops aboard a sailing ship, protected from the rain by a friendly seagull. They reach a bustling city, full of rushing people and cars. Dandelion heads into a theater and enjoys a movie with some shared popcorn. Dandelion shifts to being in a plane, inspired by the film, and flies above the city and then over the dandelion field where he started his adventure. By the time he returns to the field, Dandelion has changed once again.
Tanaka tells a wordless story here, filled with dreamy adventures that leap quickly from one setting to another yet show a seamless whole. Done in soft charcoal grays with touches of bright yellow, Dandelion shines on the page. Tanaka cleverly uses lines and shapes to form a story. The ending is particularly beautiful as Dandelion echoes the moon as does the field itself. When the seeds are launched into the sky its rather like fireworks except gentle and quiet.
Beautiful and evocative, this wordless picture book is one to visit again and again. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from copy provided by Candlewick.
A Girl Like Me by Angela Johnson, illustrated by Nina Crews (9781541557772)
A group of girls share their dreams with the reader in this picture book. Sometimes when girls dream big, people say that they shouldn’t be doing that. Girls shouldn’t be flying, they shouldn’t walk tall, and they need to stay out of the water. They should just be like everyone else. But instead of listening to the critics, in this picture book they embrace wearing costumes and head to the beach together where they created something even better than their dreams. The book ends with each of the girls in the photographs sharing a bit about themselves and their personal dreams for their futures.
Told in very simple lines, this picture book talks frankly about the limitations placed on girls in our society and the pressures they feel to conform. This book does a great job countering those messages, showing girls who stretch the limits as happy, confident and part of a larger group. Crews has illustrated the book in her signature photograph collages. They depict a diverse group of girls who stand together and create their own community for change and dreams.
Dynamic and inclusive, this book offers inspiration for girls to just be themselves. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by Millbrook Press.
Just in Case You Want to Fly by Julie Fogliano, illustrated by Christian Robinson (9780823443444)
This poetic picture book invites children to take a journey, up into the sky with the some wind, a feather, and a butterfly’s wing. On the adventure, there is are other things offered just in case. Just in case you get an itch, here’s a scratch on the back. Here is a fork and a spoon, a rock and a wish. There are jokes, bells that ring, and your toothbrush too. Honey for tea, a pillow for bed, a blanket, a dream and kisses on the head.
This book is exhilarating and filled with dreams of journeys large and small. It makes a regular day seem like it is full of magical moments, where pennies are wishes, bells ringing are special, and snacks are gifts. At the same time, it doesn’t look away from larger magic like rhinos on the pages, favorite giraffes and umbrellas in the bath. It’s a book full of delights and wonders.
Robinson’s illustrations add to Fogliano’s poetry. He embraces the whimsical nature of the text, creating beauty in the every day too. His pages are filled with characters of different races, all merrily playing together and eventually heading to bed.
A marvelous bedtime read all set to create gorgeous dreams. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from copy provided by Holiday House.
Puma Dreams by Tony Johnston, illustrated by Jim Lamarche (9781534429796)
The narrator of this book, a young girl, longs to see a puma before they disappear entirely. There have been reports about sightings near her gram’s home. Puma kittens were found in a barn, pumas have stalked horses, and been seen dozing on a tree limb. But the girl has never seen one herself. So she spends her allowance on a fifty-pound salt lick that she put out in the field. Other animals visit the salt lick, including deer, cattle, elk, but no puma appears. The salt lick dwindles down. There are signs of a puma in the area, large paw marks left in wet dirt. Then one day at breakfast, the girl feels a prickle and looks behind her and there at the salt lick is a puma in the golden morning light.
Johnston writes in poetry in this picture book. She paints entire pictures with her words, sharing the delicate balance in nature where a species is on the decline. She shares the young narrator’s wistfulness and wonder at the puma, dreaming along with her about its life and what it is doing right then. The amazement and delight when the puma finally appears is so satisfying after the longing she has conveyed on all of the previous pages.
Lamarche’s illustrations are exceptional. They capture the landscape of grassland and mountains, illuminated by the time of day with the colors of dawn or the golden light of evening. The setting is depicted so clearly that one could almost walk to the salt lick from the house. He also shows the little girl and her gram in the images, living in connection with the land around them. The beauty of the hidden puma is also there, sometimes featured on the page and other times elusive but there.
A gorgeous picture book about dreams, plans and patience. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from copy provided by Simon & Schuster.
The Night Bear by Ana and Thiago de Moraes (9781541555099)
At night, the Night Bear takes the night bus and heads out searching for his favorite nighttime meal, nightmares. Each type of nightmare tastes different from the others, but equally delicious. “Monsters with hideous eyes taste like burgers and fries.” “Scary pirates being mean taste like strawberries and cream.” On and on the Night Bear munches until he comes to one package of dreams he thinks is completely disgusting! It’s rainbows and unicorns, ick! So the Night Bear heads out to see if he can give it to a dreamer. He discovers a child who is awake in the middle of the night because of a bad dream and exchanges his awful unicorns for the child’s spiders and snakes (that taste like chocolate cake!)
The rhyming here is what makes the book a great success. It has a wonderful galloping pace as well as being filled with delicious surprises as each nightmare has a distinct and fully-described flavor. That pace nicely slows as the bear looks for a child to share the unicorns with and then picks up again at the end. The illustrations are filled with deep colors of night and vivid depictions of the various nightmares combined with the flavors they have.
Whether you find nightmares or rainbows delicious, this book is just the right flavor. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from copy provided by Andersen Press.
Tiger vs. Nightmare by Emily Tetri (9781626725355)
After dinner, Tiger takes an extra plate of food to share with her monster. Monster had been under Tiger’s bed, but they soon became friends. Now they spend time together playing games until bedtime when Monster scares Tiger’s nightmares away. All of Tiger’s family thinks she has an imaginary friend, but Monster is real. Monster fights all sorts of nightmares away until she encounters one that is too big and scary to chase off. As Tiger starts to have nightmares, she realizes that the two of them will need to work together to get rid of this huge nightmare.
Tetri, a cartoonist, has written a captivating graphic novel that is just right for the picture-book set. The pacing is brisk with a concept that shines. There is plenty of humor on the pages that sets off the more dramatic parts of the story. The art is done in watercolors, adding a wonderful traditional feel to the book. One of the more delightful parts is when Monster battles one nightmare after another. The pace slows beautifully in this part and mimics epic battle montages in comic books.
A tale of friendship and teamwork, this is a great early graphic novel. Appropriate for ages 5-7.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by First Second.
For Every One by Jason Reynolds (9781481486248)
This book is a single poem, one that is a clarion call for young creatives to continue their work. Originally performed at the unveiling of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial and then again as a tribute to Walter Dean Myers, this poem is striking and powerful. There is no claim here that Reynolds has the answer to make money at your dream, to be successful at your dream, but there is a demand that you continue to dream and create as a young person. That it is important for you and for the world.
Reynolds shares personal set backs as a young adult, showing how hard it can be to stay on course when your work is not being noticed. Still, he continued and he asks that everyone continue to speak, to share, to be out there and demand to be heard and seen. It is a book about perseverance and resilience, a poem about life, hard knocks and getting up and continuing onward.
This one belongs in every library and every creative writing and art room. It is inspiring and beautiful. Appropriate for ages 13-18.
Reviewed from copy provided by Atheneum.
The Girl Who Could Not Dream by Sarah Beth Durst
Sophie lives above her parents’ bookstore that is actually much more than a place to sell books. Downstairs below the store is another shop, the dream shop, where her parents deal in dreams harvested from dreamcatchers and then bottled. Sophie never has dreams of her own and she has been forbidden from ever drinking a dream. One day though she tries one and discovers that she has the ability to bring things back from her dreams into real life. That’s how she gets her best friend, Monster, a creature from a nightmare. Dealing in dreams can be dangerous business since it is done on the black market. When the dream shop is robbed and Sophie’s parents are taken, Sophie has to figure out who is responsible and the find a way to free her family that will mean trusting outsiders and breaking family rules.
Durst is a master storyteller. Her flights of fancy here are intoxicatingly original and yet also pay homage to traditions too. Monster is one of my favorite characters, a wise-cracking, fuzzy and loveable creature who is ferociously loyal, brave and hungry. Then there is a snooty pegasus who has his own attitude and speaks harsh truths, not to mention the multicolored ninja bunnies. Durst builds a story that has room for all of them and remains wonderfully clear and focused on the real story going on.
Sophie is a character who is known by classmates as being prickly. It’s difficult to create a character who is embraced by the reader as a hero but faces real issues at school with making friends. Durst does it with real skill, giving Sophie a personality that is by necessity very private but also making her warm and loving to those in her inner circle. The use of that privacy is also used to isolate Sophie, making the adventure all the more harrowing and forcing her to open up to those she would not otherwise trust.
A strong fantasy for elementary readers, this book is filled with smart humor and great characters. Appropriate for ages 8-11.
Reviewed from digital galley received from NetGalley and Clarion Books.
Something Extraordinary by Ben Clanton (InfoSoup)
A little boy has lots and lots of different wishes that he hopes come true. He wishes to be able to fly, to breathe underwater, that the robot he drew could come to life. Then they could play together in the rain that would come in seven different colors and flavors. He wishes for fangs and a tail. He wishes to be able to talk to animals and to have lots of wild and strange pets. But in the end, he mostly wishes that something extraordinary would happen to him. Something real. And suddenly, it does!
Clanton excels at taking very simple premises for his books and making them into something engaging and intelligent. In this book, it is all about wishes and dreams with a big dollop of imagination too. The bulk of the book is spent with the boy and his wild wishes that he only hopes could come true. In the end though, the book comes down to earth and the boy just wants something amazing to happen in real life. He takes a moment then to look around himself and realizes that there are wonderful things happening right there, especially out in nature.
The artwork here is understated and subtle. Even during his wildest and most colorful wishes, the colors are muted and subdued. It isn’t until the ending when the boy realizes that there is wonder around him in real life that the colors lose their subtlety and start to really sing.
Big dreams and wild wishes may not come to fruition here, but reality is certainly “something extraordinary” in the end. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from copy received from Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.