Paletero Man by Lucky Diaz

Cover image for Paletero Man.

Paletero Man by Lucky Diaz, illustrated by Micah Player (9780063014442)

It’s the hottest day in the hottest month in Los Angeles, so a boy heads out with his money to find the paletero cart, hoping that his favorite flavor is still available. The first cart that he finds is the tamale cart, but that’s not what he wants today. Ms. Lee has Korean BBQ for sale, but he won’t even stop for a sample. He runs past the bike shop too, not stopping to visit. Finally, he finds Paletero Joe in the park and there is still some pineapple flavor left. But when he reaches into his pocket, all of his money is gone. Luckily, all of the business owners he ran past noticed him dropping his money and are all there at the park to return it to him.

A story of delicious food set against the urban LA cityscape, this picture book shows a strong, connected and diverse community. The various foods from different cultures are all celebrated as the narrator dashes past them looking for his desired cool treat. Diaz manages to write a rhyming picture book that is merry and bright, never becoming sing-songy but instead incorporating Spanish to create many of the rhymes.

The illustrations cleverly show the money dropping out the boy’s pockets though readers may miss it the first time they read the book. The illustrations are bold and bright, reflecting the colors of the paletero and showing the diverse people in a bright and friendly urban neighborhood.

A great read-aloud just right if you have popsicles to share. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by HarperCollins.

When Lola Visits by Michelle Sterling

Cover image for When Lola Visits.

When Lola Visits by Michelle Sterling, illustrated by Aaron Asis (9780062972859)

A little girl’s grandmother, Lola, always comes to visit in the summer. The first thing she does when she arrives for the summer is to make mango jam. Summer smells like that jam and also the sampaguita soap that she uses. Lola’s suitcase carries other smells like dried squid and candy. Summer smells like cassava cake hot from the oven. It smells of chlorine from lessons at the pool and sunscreen on the beach. It smells of all sorts of food, even limes on the trees. Summer ends with the smell of sticky rain while saying goodbye to Lola at the airport. The house becomes grayer and quieter. The breezes are colder. Summer ends with return to school and the last bites of summer in mango jam.

Sterling creates a symphony of senses in this picture book that celebrates the food of the Philippines and shares a special connection made every summer between grandmother and granddaughter. Using food to add taste and smell to the summer setting works particularly well. The food bridges nicely into other summer scents of pools, lakes and beaches, creating an entire world of experience that is universal but also wonderfully specific.

Asis’ illustrations are done in gouache and digital art. With light brush strokes, he creates cabinets, tree branches, pool water and cooling cakes. This light touch adds to the summery feel of the book, inviting us all to feel a bit more sunshine and brightness.

Delicious and sensory, this book is a treat. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Katherine Tegen Books.

Applesauce Is Fun to Wear by Nancy Raines Day

Cover image for Applesauce Is Fun to Wear.

Applesauce Is Fun to Wear by Nancy Raines Day, illustrated by Jane Massey (9781951836054)

In this charmer of a picture book, toddlers wear all sorts of food. Applesauce in the hair and toast as a nice flat hat. Milk can make a mustache and yogurt can cover your tummy. Mashed banana makes a great set of gloves for your hands and ice cream can cool your toes. Peas are great to roll on the floor and spaghetti makes celebratory confetti. Chocolate cake covers your face. Then it’s all cleaned up in the end with bubbles in the tub.

Simple and engaging, this title has fun and rollicking rhymes for toddlers to enjoy. The delight in messiness is great fun, with a focus on foods that littles ones will likely have enjoyed already. After all, it’s a lot more fun to wear your food than eat it sometimes.

Massey’s illustrations add to the appeal of the title with a diverse cast of toddlers show using simple lines and colors. They are merry in their messes. She has caught the naughty grins of children having great fun.

A terrific toddler read for those who don’t mind a mess. Appropriate for ages 1-3.

Reviewed from copy provided by Cameron Kids.

Free by Sam Usher

Cover image for Free.

Free by Sam Usher (9781536217049)

The grandson and grandpa from Usher’s Seasons series return with the first in a new series. One of the birds outside was sick, so the boy and his Granddad made a cozy bed for it and read a book of bird facts. After having some water, the little bird was feeling better and they put him back outside. Now it was time for breakfast and they made pancakes together. The bird returned for a breakfast of berries. At lunch, they built triple-decker sandwiches and the bird returned again. They took him back outside to help him find his friends. At tea time, the bird returned again and they did some more research. Now it was time for them to help the little bird return to the tree he needed, so they set off to reach the top of the mountain. Happily, the bird’s many friends were there to greet him and shared their midnight feast with the humans too.

Usher blends the mundane and the imaginative into a seamless story that glides from the normal happening of finding a sick bird and steadily becomes something magical and wondrous. I loved Usher’s first book series and am so pleased to see him return with another series with these charming characters, the boy with big ideas, the grandfather who grounds him and the magic that takes over both their lives at times. The writing is simple and lovely. The focus on meals here is a treat that will have readers wanting to make their own pancakes, triple-deckers and tea.

The art is a delightful mix of smaller illustrations on white backgrounds and full-page illustrations that show the garden at Granddad’s house. There is an endearing quality to the images that show the beautiful relationship of the grandfather and grandson.

A joy to see beloved characters return. Make sure to have tea and snacks on hand when you share this one. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy provided by Templar.

Try It!: How Frieda Caplan Changed the Way We Eat by Mara Rockliff

Cover image

Try It!: How Frieda Caplan Changed the Way We Eat by Mara Rockliff, illustrated by Giselle Potter (9781534460072)

When Frieda Caplan started working at the Seventh Street produce market in Los Angeles, there were only potatoes, bananas, tomatoes and apples for sale. Caplan thought it might be work giving something new a try. So she started selling mushrooms. Soon she was known as the Mushroom Queen and had her own stall at the market. She became known as a person who would taste anything and started selling kiwis, jicama, blood oranges, Asian pears and much more. Over the years she introduced consumers to many new things, including seedless watermelons in 1962, horned melon in 1984, and fresh lychee in 2015. Caplan’s daughters now work with her in her produce stall, introducing finds of their own and offering their unique and informed view of what the next big thing might be.

Rockliff offers a dynamic look at the woman who changed how America eats fruits and vegetables. Her fearless approach to trying new things combined with a deep instinct about what will work for the market. Beautifully, the book focuses on Caplan herself but also richly shows the things that she introduced to American stores. Readers are sure to find new fruits and vegetables on the pages here, and perhaps be brave enough to try then when they make their way to supermarkets across the country.

Potter’s illustrations are richly colored and warm. They show Caplan in the 1950s when she started and then steadily move forward in time, nicely showing the time period through the clothing of the people. The fruits and vegetables are rainbow bright and nicely labeled with their name and the year that Caplan discovered them for the U.S. market.

Bright, intelligent and full of juicy details. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy provided by Simon & Schuster.

The Blue Table by Chris Raschka

Cover image for The Blue Table

The Blue Table by Chris Raschka (9780062937766)

A blue table tells the story of a family coming together again and again around it. It starts with the blue table having a flower in a vase and a child having a glass of milk. One parent joins the child with some coffee. Another parent joins in and books, newspapers and crayons appear as they share cinnamon rolls. They get going after the table is cleared. Then items from the garden appear: carrots and potatoes. Items from the store and the farm: onions, butter, corn and a turkey! They make an apple pie from scratch and gather flowers for a larger vase. Then a leaf is added to the table, making it longer. A tablecloth and more plates are placed on the blue table, until more family gather together, holding hands to celebrate with one another.

This picture book is focused and simple, giving readers just a view of the blue table itself and never seeing the humans that use the table until we see their hands towards the end of the book. The use of different sorts of cups and plates to show the ages of the family members is clever, along with their books, newspapers and crayons. The extension of the table to be ready for a shared feast is marvelous and offers a touch of surprise for the reader.

Focused on a table that brings a family together both every day and then on special occasions, this book is a celebration of the simple things. The child’s art work in the early pages can be seen at the end as placecards for the loved ones around the table. The art is free flowing and joyous, the blue table and the various objects full of bright colors.

Just right to share around any holiday that gathers people around a table together. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Greenwillow Books.

Donut Feed the Squirrels by Mika Song

Cover image of Donut Feed the Squirrels

Donut Feed the Squirrels by Mika Song (9781984895837)

Norma and Belly are squirrels who live in a large tree together. When Norma tries to make pancakes for breakfast, she burns them so badly that not even Belly can eat them. Then they smell something even sweeter coming from a food truck nearby: donuts! They try collecting nuts to trade for a donut, but the man in the truck squirts them with water instead. It’s time for a cunning plan that will need bravery, dexterity, cooking skills and a getaway car! They leave a real mess behind, but also one great idea that inspires a new donut flavor: sweet chestnut.

This graphic novel for elementary-aged readers is a real treat! The entire story is told in dialogue that is minimal and full of silliness. This creates a fast read, speedy and racing ahead of the reader, keeping on great pun in front. The book is full of squirrel ingenuity too and a sense that great ideas can come from anywhere, as well as a skilled getaway driver.

Screamingly funny at times and wildly silly, this graphic novel’s illustrations use white space cleverly. The expressions on the squirrels’ faces are marvelously emotive, their ears and eyebrows moving around, their mouths often open in surprise, and their eyes always thinking of something new to do.

Nutty and sweet, this is a marvelous read sure to appeal to those who love furry critters with their donuts. Appropriate for ages 7-11.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Random House Graphic.

Nerp! by Sarah Lynne Reul

Nerp by Sarah Lynne Reul

Nerp! by Sarah Lynne Reul (9781454934028)

Picky eaters take center stage in this picture book. A young monster is disinterested in all of the delicacies his parents keep bringing out of the kitchen. To each one, he replies with “nerp or nerpy nerp” in refusal. His parents make more and more different options, but he doesn’t want anything. Until, suddenly he is clearly slurping food off the page. His parents are delighted at first, until it’s clear that he’s munching pet food. With a blurp, he finishes eating, with the pet finally getting what they have been drooling over all along, the food for the child!

This picture book invents its own language, full of nerps, yerps, schmerps and blurps. Each of the types of food is wildly named too but in a way that makes it wonderful to say it all aloud: Hotchy-potch, mushy gush bloobarsh, picklefishy verp, yuckaroni smackintosh. Each one is a dance on the tongue that will have children laughing along.

The illustrations are digital drawings done over photographs of cardboard models. They have a marvelous three-dimensional quality to them with furniture, rugs, and an entire house. They are engagingly unique and also bright and humorous too.

Perfect for reading aloud, maybe just before snacks. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from library copy.

Play with Your Plate! by Judith Rossell

Play with Your Plate! by Judith Rossell

Play with Your Plate! by Judith Rossell (9781419739071)

This clever board book opens to reveal four separate sections, all done in sturdy board pages. Little ones are encouraged to play with the sections, as each one has an engaging question on it. Can you make a plate of only circles or triangles? Can you make one of only one color? Can you find a plate with all your favorite foods? Start turning the pages and you will discover a multi-topped pizza, Japanese sushi and miso soup, tacos, sandwiches, mac and cheese, and various fruits and veggies.

This book asks children to play with it. Families will be able to come up with their own challenges for one another since the book has 4,000 combinations. Turn all the way to the end and all of the sections end with empty plates and a few crumbs.

Clever and fun, you won’t be able to stop playing with this one. Appropriate for ages 1-3.

Reviewed from copy provided by Abrams Appleseed.