The daughter of a shipwright, the protagonist in this story loves the sea and wishes that she could join her father on his next journey. She decides to stowaway on his trip, hiding onboard. The wind soon carries the sailing ship out onto the sea. It doesn’t take long for her father to discover her and soon she is working alongside others on the ship: tying knots, painting the hull, carrying loads. They travel for weeks, stopping for cargo at ports along the way. She starts to miss her mother though as they near home again. Then a storm hits, one that batters the ship. Ordered to stay below, she knows she must try to help. After being thrown onto the rocks, they must abandon the sinking ship. But those who love them find a way to light the shore. It’s a light that inspires her father’s new adventure.
The text and the illustrations of this picture book work hand-in-hand. They form the complete story together. The text itself is robust in places where descriptions are needed and then becomes the gentles breeze of words when the illustrations can carry the tale. It’s a story with plenty of tension and amazement as the young protagonist heads on an adventure. It can also be seen as a clever allegory for life’s journey with risk taking, hard work, storms, near disasters, and recovery and reinvention.
The illustrations are filled with details that evoke the time period and the elements of the ship. From bright sun to the darkness of a hiding place to tropical ports and then the movement and danger of the storm, all of these make for a real page turner of a picture book.
A grand adventure at sea. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by Anne Schwartz Books.
Dad wakes up when it is still dark and walks to work. When he gets there, he works side-by-side with others to create dough that rises and becomes rolls and loaves. When the sun comes up, Dad walks back home, smelling like warm bread. While he sleeps, his daughter waits for him until it’s time to wake him up. Together, the two go to the kitchen and make their own smaller batch of bread. While it rises and rests, they spend a lot of time together. A bread surprise is created in the kitchen and the two spend the rest of the day together until night falls once more.
Told simply and in a straight-forward way, Yamasaki pays homage to single parents who work long hours, often night shifts to care for their children and provide a true home for them. In her author’s note, she mentions her work as a muralist in correctional facilities, adding another layer to the book. The program the father in the book is part of provides opportunities to those recently incarcerated. This book shows the strength and resilience it takes to return successfully from incarceration and parent a child with love, dedicating real time to being together.
The illustrations show the urban setting the family lives in, particularly when Dad walks to and from work. Their apartment is warm and cozy, full of bright colors that carry through their day spent together. The relationship between father and daughter really comes alive in the illustrations, showing the time they spend together and the joy they both take in it.
A look at parents who work the night shift that embraces those who were once incarcerated. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by Norton Young Readers.
It’s a lovely autumn day outside, so Papa Bear tells his seven baby bears to get their sweaters on. They head upstairs to get ready while Papa sits downstairs knitting. But it turns out that the baby bears need some help getting dressed successfully. After some disentangling, Papa gets them ready. All except for one, whose sweater unravels and he to be tucked into the stocking cap that Papa had been knitting. By the time they are all ready to go, it’s evening. The bear family makes the most of the nighttime, watching their breath frost the air and seeing a comet cross the sky. Then it’s time for pajamas on and bed.
Every parent will recognize the joy of getting ready for a day outside the house. This book is so cozy that the frustration of not getting ready quickly makes time for knitting and some extra hugs. Papa Bear is a delight of an adult character, seemingly on top of it all until the door opens and reveals how long it has actually taken for them all to get ready. With few words, the book relies on the illustrations to tell the story and share the love of this furry family.
Cozy, funny and full of autumn spice. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by Greenwillow Books.
After her mother’s death, Josephine knows that she wants to keep her Daddy’s attention on her. So she manages to chase off any woman looking to be his new girlfriend, using pranks and fish guts. Her father used to love watching cricket matches with her on the weekends, and she is desperate to get him back to doing that again. When one of her pranks goes wrong though, she is forced to use the money she’d been saving to take him to a real match in person to pay for the damages. Josephine also loves to play cricket herself, but at her school only boys play. After being disappointed about the team, Josephine also finds that her father has a new girlfriend. But Mariss isn’t like the other women and doesn’t scare off easily. As strange things start to happen around Mariss, Josephine realizes that she be very different from everyone else and may not even be human!
Full of Caribbean magic, this novel starts out as a story about the loss of a mother and steadily turns into a fantasy about a sea monster who is both kind and vengeful. The author’s own Bajan heritage is reflected throughout the book in the lilt of the dialogue. She also shares Caribbean folktales about a variety of beings and creatures.
Josephine is a grand protagonist. She is hot headed and determined to get what she wants, something that causes both problems and also creates opportunities. She is also willing to reconsider and learn from others, including members of her community and her best friend. Mariss is a complicated villain and monster, which is great to see in a children’s book. She is a mix of kindness and control, a being who wants humans to belong to her and who will destroy them if they don’t obey.
A book of Black girl magic and monsters. Appropriate for ages 9-12.
Strollercoaster by Matt Ringler, illustrated the Raul the Third and Elaine Bay (9780316493222)
Every day there is a time when the inside feels too small for Sam. She kicks toys around the room, stomping and angry. There is only one solution for this, which is to take a ride on the strollercoaster! To start the ride, Sam gets buckled in and the straps are pulled tight. A reminder of keeping hands and feet inside at all times is given, and they are off! Sam’s father runs fast and the neighborhood flies past them. There are cool shops, sweet-smelling bakeries, and the green of a park. Soon Sam feels like she’s flying and she’s smiling. The ride ends with a dark tunnel with a light at the end. By the time they get back home, Sam is asleep and her father is ready for a nap too.
Ringler writes a book that starts with anger and frustration and then shows a way to find delight in life once more with big smiles that turn into a cozy nap. It’s a book with a strong arc that is enhanced by all of the urban elements of the story and the warm relationship of father and daughter. The text in the book plays with the rollercoaster theme, using buckles, straps and the iconic warning and then clicking and clacking uphill. It’s funny, universal and delightful.
The illustrations are playful right from the beginning with all sorts of small details that are great fun to discover. Keep an eye on Sam’s stormcloud t-shirt that is big and bold at first, and then covered up skillfully as she calms down. The urban neighborhood is brought fully to life in the images with rainbow sherbet colors carrying throughout, creating a tropical summer feel.
A dynamic thrillride of a book. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by Little, Brown and Company.
This picture book biography looks at the country life of N.C. Wyeth and his family through the eyes of his artist daughter, Henriette. Henriette joins her father as he heads out into the countryside to paint. The two quietly go out, avoiding her talkative sister who is in the henhouse and her brother who is in his workshop building things. Her father greets the flowers along the way, finally stopping to paint the landscape before them. The two sense the world around them, draw the details they see, and smell the earth and plants, painting the sky. They paint together until it is time to head home, and even then Henriette stays behind to paint even more.
The author first discovered Henriette through N.C. Wyeth’s letters and then went on to learn more about her. The statements that the book has Wyeth say to his daughter are taken from his writing about art. The language in the book is poetic and rich, showing all of us how to look more deeply at the world around us and celebrate the small things we see and the large landscape and sky as well.
Bates was also taught art by her own father and notes in her Illustrator’s note that this book pays homage to the Wyeth’s and also to her own experience as she grew up. The illustrations are an engaging mix of watercolor landscapes and then also smaller drawings and paintings that Henriette would have made as they wandered from things she dreamt up and details she noticed.
A lovely look at the Wyeth family, the talented Henriette and how the artistic eye is taught. Appropriate for ages 6-9.
A little rabbit and his father live together near the edge of a dark and menacing forest where no one goes. His father has always wanted to know what is on the other side of the forest, so he sets a plan in motion. He takes their wheat harvest and begins to bake bread. When other rabbits in the community come around, he offers them bread in exchange for four large stones. Those stones, the two rabbits use to start building a huge tower to see above the tall trees. Their work continues for weeks and weeks until one day a terrible storm knocks down all of their hard work. The father rabbit falls asleep exhausted near his ruined tower, and that is when the community of rabbits appears and helps to rebuild the tower, higher than it was before. After lots more bread, more stones and plenty of hard work, the tower is complete. The little rabbit and his father are the first to climb to the top and see the surprise waiting for them.
Translated from the original French, Robert’s picture book reads like a folkloric story filled with classic elements such as bread, stones and sacrifice. She uses a storyteller’s voice throughout the book, drawing readers into the story. She excels at brevity in her text, using just enough to keep the story moving ahead and also explaining what is happening with enough details to bring it to life.
The art is exceptional, marvelously mixing modern and vintage elements into something very interesting and unique. The idyllic countryside setting is shown both in the closeup images as well as those showing extensive landscapes. The process of building the tower uses all sorts of levers and pulleys, showing the ingenuity at work and the hard labor involved.
A book full of suspense, fresh bread and community. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by Greystone Kids.
A child is awoken by their father in the middle of the night. They head outside into the winter darkness, past the dogs and the cows. The father explains that they are going to see an Aurora, but the child doesn’t know what that means. Are stars in the Aurora? Is the moon? They head up the hill, their breath steaming in the icy air. They sit on the stony ground and look up, marveling together at the colors that streak the sky as the aurora borealis appears. They are silent until their walk back to the house, when the father shares what he knows about the aurora.
Originally published in New Zealand, this picture book is quiet and focused on a specific natural phenomenon. The book is told in very simple language, making it accessible for small children. The gender of the main character is never revealed, since the book is told from their point of view. The anticipation of discovering what the aurora is isn’t lessened by knowing about it ahead of time. The amazement and delight are infectious.
Bannock’s art is full of color even in the nighttime home. Warm reds, bright yellows, deep purples all fill the pages. The colors become more muted as they head outside, the night sky black above them and the stars vivid against it. The icy winter night is shown with a sickle of a moon, bare tree branches, and a layer of snow. The colors of the aurora are captured beautifully in a grand and stirring way that lifts the heart.
Quiet, personal and incredibly moving, this is a glimpse of a natural wonder. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
The author of Eventown returns with another book showing how children can see beyond the social façade to what is actually happening. Rose is the daughter of the most famous and successful magic capturer in her town, which is the most magical in the world. She has grown up as “Little Luck” knowing that she is the one who will be the one to carry on her father’s legacy, unlike her older brother. She spends her days going barefoot despite the cold, practicing by catching fireflies, and wearing her father’s sweaters and scarves. But all is not quite right in her family, and deep down Rose knows it. The entire family tiptoes around her father’s expectations, making sure they are perfect and happy all of the time. So when New Year’s Day finally comes, Rose just knows she will be the best at finding the magic, but she isn’t. In fact, she just gets one little jar of magic. Now Rose’s father won’t speak to her, her previous friends mock her and ignore her, and everything has changed. Rose has a strange new freedom, accompanied by a new friend who doesn’t use magic, where she can start to see what is really going on not just with magic and her town, but in her family as well.
Haydu moves smoothly into full fantasy with this latest novel for middle grades. She laces magic throughout a world that looks much like our own, adding glitter, rainbows and wonder. She manages to take readers through the same process that Rose goes through, dazzled at first by the magic around them, then questioning it, and finally seeing beyond it to the marvels of the real world beneath.
Haydu’s depiction of Rose’s father is particularly haunting: a man who himself is all glitter with real issues not quite hidden by the magic that surrounds him. His anger, insistence and control are all revealed steadily through the book, alarm bells that grow louder and steadier as it progresses. Rose is a great protagonist, raised to believe herself the most special of all, fallen from that pedestal and able to lift herself to a new place based on reality and her own resilience.
A great fantasy read that asks deep questions about magic, control and freedom. Appropriate for ages 9-12.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by Katherine Tegen Books.