Review: You See, I See in the City by Michelle Sinclair Colman

You See, I See in the City by Michelle Sinclair Colman

You See, I See in the City by Michelle Sinclair Colman, illustrated by Paul Schmid (9781524715007)

A father and daughter travel the city together in this board book. They move quickly and enter the city together, noticing the skyscrapers and the newspapers. There are bakeries and fire hydrants, snacks and dogs. Even when the pair look at the same thing, they notice different aspects of it. There are men working in hard hats, but the little girl sees the steam rising in clouds. The pair stop to eat and play in their favorite cafe and finally take the subway together back home.

Told in a very simple rhyming lines, this board book invites young readers to take a look around themselves and notice small things. The father and daughter are engaged with one another throughout the book, laughing and playing with one another. The urban setting is a welcome one in board books as is the family of color. I also appreciate seeing a father shown as the sole caregiver for a small child.

A winning board book full of urban sights. Appropriate for ages 1-3.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Alfred A. Knopf.

Review: Interrupting Chicken and the Elephant of Surprise by David Ezra Stein

Interrupting Chicken and the Elephant of Surprise by David Ezra Stein

Interrupting Chicken and the Elephant of Surprise by David Ezra Stein (9780763688424)

This is the sequel to the Caldecott Honor winner that returns us to the silliness of the first. The little red chicken has homework to do. At school, he learned all about the “elephant of surprise” and how it appears in every story. Papa tries to correct his little chicken, but as they share stories the element of surprise is at play. Who knew that even Ugly Duckling, Rapunzel and The Little Mermaid have a shocking surprise for Papa too? Spend some more time with these two chickens in a book that celebrates surprises and shared stories.

Stein’s second story about this little chicken family has the same warmth as the first. There is a wonderful coziness about Papa and the little chicken and the home they share. At the same time, it has a dazzling sense of humor that children will adore with truly laugh-out-loud moments of surprise and elephants.

The art continues the feel of the first book in the series with a home filled with small touches and rich colors. The stories the two share are drawn in ink and have an old-fashioned feel to them. But then the blue elephant of surprise will break through and bring color into those books.

Full of surprises and joy, this picture book is a worthy follow up to the first. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy provided by Candlewick Press.

 

Review: Night Job by Karen Hesse

Night Job by Karen Hesse

Night Job by Karen Hesse, illustrated by G. Brian Karas (9780763662387)

Released on September 11, 2018.

On Friday nights, a little boy goes with his father to work. They leave after dark on his father’s motorcycle, head across the bridge, and enter the closed school. His father has a big ring of keys to open the door. They clean the gym first, while the little boy plays basketball. They bring a radio with them from room to room, listening to baseball games. At ten at night, they eat the lunch they brought with them. While his father cleans the library, the boy falls asleep reading on the couch. His father wakes him at four in the morning to head back home, across the bridge. The two fall asleep together curled in the big recliner.

Newbery Medal winner Hesse captures the wonder of going to work with a parent and brings in the beauty of being out at night as well. Along the way, the work of a parent who has a night job is honored. As a child of a teacher, I enjoyed the empty hallways of a school closed for the weekend or summer. It’s a beautiful thing to have those areas be silent and just for you. That feeling is shown here clearly, as the boy makes the spaces his own.

The connection between father and son is a focus of the story and the illustrations. The pictures by Karas are done in his signature style and use darkness and light cleverly. The father and son are shown as a pair throughout the book, highlighting their special time together whether in the bright gym or on the dark road.

A quiet book about jobs, connections and families. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy provided by Candlewick Press.

 

Review: What I Leave Behind by Alison McGhee

What I Leave Behind by Alison McGhee

What I Leave Behind by Alison McGhee (9781481476560)

Will has discovered that walking the streets of Los Angeles helps him stop thinking about the tragedies in his life. After his father’s suicide, he is trying to find a new rhythm to his life and it seems to be filled with long walks, ones that keep him from being at home too much or visiting the places he went with his father. When Will is home, he works to perfect his father’s cornbread recipe, but nothing seems to improve it at all. Then there is the other thing that he is avoiding, his best friend Playa was raped at a party. Will has no idea how to help her or make it better. So he takes his job at the Dollar Store and turns it into a way to reach out into the world and make connections with Playa and others. Small acts of kindness that allow him to break through the walls he has placed around himself, if he dares.

This book is steeped in sadness to profound that you almost expect your skin to come away tinted with blue. McGhee captures those traumas that are so deep that one cannot deal in a normal way, but only manage to escape in whatever way is possible. In the middle of this sadness is the amazing character of Will, a boy searching for connections while refusing to see those right in front of him. A boy who sees moments of awe and humanity in people that almost bring him to his knees. McGhee shows us all of these with a tenderness that honors his pain and also brings hope.

The writing here is beautiful. Written in small bite-sized pieces accompanied by calligraphy on the opposite page done in gentle grays, these small moments are magnified and made into important life events, as they are. And yet, the importance is an everyday one, a day-by-day one. That is the hope here.

Tender, profound and tragic, this book for teens is cathartic and hopeful. Appropriate for ages 13-17.

Reviewed from copy provided by Atheneum.

3 New Picture Books with City Settings

Bus! Stop By James Yang

Bus! Stop! By James Yang (9780425288771)

When a boy misses his bus, he finds himself in a city filled with strange vehicles that are certainly not his bus. One bus is too tall and the passengers have to use their propeller hats to board it. The next is pulled by horses and shaped like a covered wagon, just right for the people in cowboy hats who climb aboard. When people wearing sailor suits arrive next, readers can guess the ship is about to arrive. There is another bus that bounces passengers high. The boy catches the next bus, even though it isn’t his either. It floats high above, away from the little girl who just missed the bus.

Told in very simple lines of text that are shown as speech bubbles, this picture book is all about the illustrations. With a modern edge, they have a playful feel thanks to their bright colors and the wild sorts of transportation shown on the pages. The matching of passengers to each conveyance is particularly skillful and will have children guessing what sort of “bus” is about to arrive on the next page. Humorous and jolly, stop for this book! Appropriate for ages 2-4. (Reviewed from library copy.)

Daddy, Me and the Magic Hour by Laura Krauss Melmed

Daddy, Me and the Magic Hour by Laura Krauss Melmed, illustrated by Sarita Rich (9781510707917)

When the family arrives home, Daddy starts cooking while Mommy feeds the baby. After supper, the little boy heads outside with his father for Magic Hour, their after supper walk. They greet a neighbor watering her roses. Meet dogs out for a walk, run a bit, find sticks and feathers. They play at the quiet playground that they have all to themselves. On their way home, the crickets start to chirp, they catch fireflies and release them. The daylight disappears and they walk home in the moonlight.

A book about the specialness of time spent together, this picture book celebrates quiet moments that string together to make a childhood. The text is jolly and short, the images telling parts of the story that are not put into words. The illustrations use comic-like framing to show each moment and connection in a special way. Along the walk the little boy steadily fills his bucket with memories, each tangible and solid. A delight of a bedtime read. Appropriate for ages 3-5. (Reviewed from library copy.)

In the Darkness of the Night by Emily Rand

In the Darkness of the Night by Emily Rand (9781849764810)

This book invites children to think about what happens after they head to bed at night. In the deep blue darkness of the city, windows are lit. Dishes are being washed, car doors slam as people arrive home again. Some people are still out, the trains are running through the night. Sirens sound, mothers are up with babies, some people work at night too. City foxes begin to explore, airplanes land. And morning comes with garbage pick up, mail being delivered, and the cat returning home again.

There is a wonderful mix of sleepiness and activity in this book. Told in rhyme, the book really works thanks to its rocking structure and its inherent quietness. Throughout, readers get to peek into windows of the city both ones that are lit and those that are dark. It’s a clever way to invite readers to explore the images that support the story so well. Deep blue throughout, this book is a city lullaby worth sharing. Appropriate for ages 2-4. (Reviewed from copy provided by Tate Publishing.)

3 New Picture Books that Embrace Families

Hooked by Tommy Greenwald

Hooked by Tommy Greenwald, illustrated by David McPhail (9781596439962)

A young boy loves to spend his time fishing, but his father doesn’t want to join him in this picture book. Joe loves to fish, but his father just doesn’t understand the appeal and won’t participate. So Joe joins the local fishing club and they fish all over the area in different bodies of water. The in the winter, the club decides to do ice fishing and every kid will need an adult along. Joe is worried that his father will refuse again, but instead he agrees to do it just once. When the two of them get to the frozen lake, nothing much happens at first. Then they start to talk and talk together and suddenly Joe’s father understands.

This is a lovely quiet book, one that celebrates the silence and beauty of fishing and also the way that quiet hobbies can create opportunities for deep connection with others. Children not interested in fishing will still recognize the way that parents sometimes duck out of games and hobbies that they find unappealing. The illustrations are classic McPhail filled with luminous glowing light and a playful sense of storytelling. A great pick for fishing story times or for a quiet evening of stories together. Appropriate for ages 4-6. (Reviewed from library copy.)

How Mamas Love Their Babies by Juniper Fitzgerald

How Mamas Love Their Babies by Juniper Fitzgerald, illustrated by Elise Peterson (9781936932009)

This picture book talks about how different mothers love their children. The text is simple and straightforward but the examples are what makes this book stand out. Mothers use their bodies to care, like breastfeeding their babies. Mothers protest for better worlds for their babies. Some mothers stay home with their children while others work. Some mothers clean houses, others watch other people’s children, others work in government, others work in the fields. Some mothers wear uniforms and some dance for a living. All mothers, no matter what they do for a living, love their children.

The inclusion of mothers who may have to dance for a living is what makes this book so special. That combines with an acceptance of all lifestyles, of all races and religions in the illustrations of the book. The women come in all sizes and colors in the vintage-style collages throughout the book. There is an acceptance of everyone here that is hard to find in children’s books and makes this one for all libraries to own. Appropriate for ages 2-4. (Reviewed from e-galley provided by Edelweiss and Feminist Press.)

On the Other Side of the Garden by Jairo Buitrago

On the Other Side of the Garden by Jairo Buitrago, illustrated by Rafael Yonkteng (9781554989836)

The author and illustrator of Walk with Me and Two White Rabbits return with a picture book that is immediately immersive. A little girl gets dropped off at her grandmother’s house by her father. When she wakes up in the night, there are three animals looking in at her through the window: an owl, a mouse and a frog. They seem friendly, so she opens the window for them. Soon they are inviting her out into the garden, her feet touching grass for the first time in a long time since she lived in the city. As they escape the house, the moon shines white on the page and lights their way. They explore the nearby creek, a hill that lets them look back at the house, and fields. The little girl starts to open up about why she is there at her grandmother’s house, a grandmother she barely knows. She returns back to the house just as the sun comes up, where her grandmother is waiting for her.

There is such beauty in this book. The tone of the text is wistful and wondering, inviting the reader along on the adventure. It is a journey of opening up, of finding new friends who warm you when the wind blows and who surprise and delight you. It is a book of knowing the truth but not being quite ready to face it yet. The illustrations are a play of dark and light. They fill the pages right to the edge, deep blue and full of nature and movement. They are stunningly lovely, unique and emotional. A very special book that is soulful and moving. Appropriate for ages 6-9. (Reviewed from library copy.)

My Daddy Rules the World by Hope Anita Smith

My Daddy Rules the World by Hope Anita Smith

My Daddy Rules the World: Poems about Dads by Hope Anita Smith (9780805091892, Amazon)

Coretta Scott King Award winner Smith returns with a new collection of poetry and illustrations that focuses on fathers. The book shows fathers who make breakfast and chat contrasted with others whose work keeps them far away but still in contact. There are fathers who cut hair, others who dance, others who wrestle or play catch. They teach their children to ride bikes or play instruments or read. Each poem is told in the voice of the child of that father and shows how very different dads can be but that they all love their children completely.

Smith writes poetry that is thoughtful and honed. She makes sure that it is appropriate for the young audience, inviting young readers to explore poetry and see themselves in it. The poems are misleadingly simple, not showing the skill that it takes to write at this level and with such apparent ease.

Smith’s illustrations are diverse and inclusive. With her torn paper illustrations, she makes sure to show families of various races and multiracial families. There is a warmth to the illustrations and a folk-art element that underlines the richness of being a father and in a family.

A strong collection of poems for young people, ideal to share with fathers. Appropriate for ages 7-10.

Reviewed from library copy.

It’s Great Being a Dad by Dan Bar-el

It's Great Being a Dad by Dan Bar-el

It’s Great Being a Dad by Dan Bar-el, illustrated by Gina Perry (9781770496057, Amazon)

One by one, mythical creatures appear and tell the reader how great a life they have. The unicorn loves prancing and their gorgeous horn, but the horn does make it very difficult to eat, particularly if you get a table stuck on it. Bigfoot has a great time being strong and helping his friends, but his big feet can be a problem. The robot loves his flashing lights and memory, but rain is an issue. Then there is the Loch Ness Monster and the “fairy queen ballerina doctor” who help the others. But there are always problems like the sneaky flying alligator pirate. Who can help all of these mythical beasts? Dad, that’s who.

This book embraces the idea of creative and imaginative play completely as the children first introduce themselves as the characters they are pretending to be. Steadily though, the illusion breaks a bit as each new character is introduced and their personas get more complicated. Bar-el does a lovely job of allowing the fantasy to fracture steadily and then break altogether as Dad enters the picture.

Perry has created first a lovely fantasy world with rainbow colors, deep forests, lochs and castles. She then goes on to morph that into a multicultural family filled with children of all ages who are trying to play near one another if not together. The connection between fantasy and reality is strong in the illustrations and children will love seeing the ties.

A warm look at imaginative play and great parenting, this picture book is a celebration of dads. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.

 

Little Wolf’s First Howling by Laura McGee Kvasnosky

Little Wolf's First Howling by Laura McGee Kvasnosky

Little Wolf’s First Howling by Laura McGee Kvasnosky, illustrated by Kate Harvey McGee (9780763689711, Amazon)

Little Wolf and his father head to the top of a hill for Little Wolf’s first try at howling at the moon. They watch as night falls and then Big Wolf demonstrates how it is done with a pure AAAAAAOOOOOOO. Little Wolf goes next, trying to imitate his father. But he can’t help but share his joy at it being his first howling as part of it with an “I’m hoooowling!” Big Wolf tells him that he started well but the ending was not proper form and demonstrates again. This time Little Wolf starts well again but soon adds his own interpretation. Once more Big Wolf demonstrates and again Little Wolf does his own things, this time getting his father’s paws to tap along. Soon the two of them are joining together in Little Wolf’s way of howling.

Kvasnosky’s text is simple and friendly. It will invite young listeners to howl along, so expect to fill your own space with lots of howling. As Little Wolf comes into his own in his personal way of howling, children will love the rhythms and jazzy nature of his voice. There is a great relationship between father and son in this book, a sense of patience emanates from Big Wolf while a wild playfulness exudes from Little Wolf.

McGee’s illustrations are done in gouache relief and capture the vibrancy of nature at dark. They are sprinkled with starlight and light from the moon. The medium also has lots of darkness and texture, creating its own shadows and organic qualities that add to the experience.

A howling good time, this picture book will be a pleasure to share aloud to your own group of little wolves. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.