Noah is waiting on the beach, wondering when he and Nana can take a sail out to see the seals. Nana needs to fix the boat before they go, so Noah must amuse himself on the beach instead. He looks out to see to check for seals, but they don’t like to come in to shore. So Noah digs in the sand while thinking of seals. Suddenly, he notices the pile of sand behind him looks a lot like the body of a seal. Noah steadily works to make the sand look even more like a seal, giving it shape, speckles, whiskers, and eyes and mouth. The two lie on the beach together until Nana calls him because a storm is coming. The two take shelter in the boat under a tarp, but the sand seal is washed away. Nana tells him that the boat is fixed and they can head out to see the seals tomorrow, and that is when Noah sees his seal alive and near the beach. Surely they must take the boat out right now!
A delightful mix of wishful fantasy and the beauty of a day spent on the beach making something, this picture book is a summery joy. The relationship between Nana and Noah is evident right from the beginning, full of warmth and support, but also offering Noah plenty of space to amuse himself. The text is just right, offering a clear view of the setting while moving ahead as quickly as an ocean breeze.
The illustrations are just the right mix of sunshine colored sand and teal sea wave. Noah and his grandmother are Black characters. Noah’s seal is depicted in a way that makes sense for a child to have designed and built it. It’s simple and effective.
Perfect reading for a summery day, whether on the beach or not. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Musqon accompanies her grandmother to the salt marsh where they are going to pick sweetgrass. The salt marsh is where the river meets the ocean. Her grandmother explains that she helped her own grandmother pick sweetgrass as a girl to weave into baskets and use in ceremonies. To Musqon, all of the grasses look the same, so her grandmother shows her what to look for to find sweetgrass among all the other grasses. She explains that they never pick the first blade of sweetgrass that they see, to make sure that sweetgrass continues to the next generation. When her grandmother tells her that sweetgrass has a shiny green tassel and blades with a purple stem and that it is easy to pick, Musqon is confident she can find it on her own. It isn’t until Musqon takes her time, thinks about what she is there to do, and really sees the salt marsh that she can find sweetgrass herself.
Written by a citizen of the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians and a citizen of the Passamaquoddy Nation, this picture book is a gentle story of Native traditions shared with a new generation. The text of the book shares Passamaquoddy-Maliseet words in the dialogue of the characters. It takes the time, slowing us all down, to explain the importance of sweetgrass and how to find it. The moment when Musqon takes her own time and gives herself space is beautifully created.
Baker learned about sweetgrass for this book also the landscape in which it grows. She shows a delicacy with both in her illustrations, celebrating sweetgrass itself and also showing the beautiful landscape where the river meets the ocean.
A rich and vital look at sweetgrass and heritage. Appropriate for ages 4-7.
Gran told Trixy stories from the time she was born. No one else believed Gran’s stories were true, but Trixy knew they were. After Gran’s death, Trixy holds on to her stories, particularly the one she promised to never tell. Gran told Trixy that stories weren’t meant for everyone, because sometimes they can’t be heard. When her teacher tells her that she needs to write down a true story, Trixy borrows one from Gran. It’s a story that is unbelievable, combining cake, theft and Liberace. Soon Trixy is telling lots of people Gran’s stories and submitting some for publication. Deep down she knows the stories are real, but can she prove it? It’s going to take telling some lies, doing some sneaking, and traveling across the state to meet people who knew Gran and can tell Trixy the real truth.
Vrabel has created a novel wrapped around a series of delightful short stories told in Gran’s voice. Through those stories and Trixy’s memories, readers gain a deep sense of who Gran was. The novel is an exploration of the power of stories that are shared, a question of what truth really is, and then an ending that will require a few tissues. The writing is marvelous with just the right amount of Southern charm. The play between the novel itself and the stories works amazingly well, combining richly together.
Trixy is a character who is holding not only stories but also secrets. Her relationships with others are difficult thanks to her prickly way with others. Trixy regularly believes that she is right, doesn’t listen to others, and in the process speaks hurtfully to them. At the same time, her pain over losing her beloved Gran is evident as is her need to connect with other people. She manages to transform those around her with her stories while at the same time also changing herself too.
A charming Southern novel about stories, loss, love and truth. Appropriate for ages 9-12.
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.
One day when out on a snowy walk, a little girl and her abuela found an injured bird. They brought it home and took care of it. As it healed, they kept it in a cage and also let it fly around their living room. The bird was just as fantastic as everything else is at Abuela’s house. When the bird was better, they released it out the window. It flew off over the city until they couldn’t see it any longer. Winter turned to spring. The little bird returned to their balcony. The little girl wanted to keep it, but instead they decided that the bird could visit them whenever it liked.
Told in simple sentences, this picture book is beautifully quiet and thoughtful. Readers will enjoy the discovery of the bird and the care that the pair take with getting it better. There is sadness as the bird has to be set free and then a joy when it returns. Without being heavy handed, this picture book explores how we can help nature without needing to own it or change it.
The illustrations capture the warmth of Abuela’s home and the rich connection she has with her granddaughter. The two spend lots of time together, reading and gardening, just being with one another on the pages.
Quiet and simple. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from copy provided by Abrams Books for Young Readers.
When a boy’s grandmother comes to visit, his parents leave him alone with her even though he doesn’t really remember her. His grandmother immediately drops to the floor and invites him to become a jaguar with her. He joins her, stretching himself thinner and becoming faster. Soon they are out in the forest, moving through it in the way that only jaguars can. The two drink from moonlit water, and his grandmother kills a rabbit and eats it. They venture to high lookouts, take occasional rests, and run fast and often. Their voices rumble like thunder together. As they head into the Himalayas, the boy remembers he has to return to school and wonders how long they have been gone. The ending refreshingly leaves questions of what was imagined and what was real.
Eggers writes in prose that is a mix of simple lines and marvelously captivating moments. Nature plays a large role in the book, inviting readers to think about venturing out into their own forests and having their own outdoor adventures. The time spent together sipping water from a lake, running fast and hard, and bouncing over water like marbles creates a vibrant relationship between the two characters as they get to know one another. It becomes less and less important what is real as their experiences together are what truly matter.
White’s illustrations are full of mystery and moonlight. He uses such deep colors in the book, allowing the jaguars to glow on the page, full of their own light. The gatefold page opens fully to allow the two people to transform in front of the reader into jaguars. The pages are deliciously colored, showing the wonders of nature and a variety of gorgeous landscapes.
Imaginative and invigorating, this playful picture book takes us to the wild side. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
I Dream of Popo by Livia Blackburne, illustrated by Julia Kuo (9781250249319)
A little girl grows up seeing her beloved Popo, her grandmother, often in Taiwan. They spend time together cuddling, eating and going to the park. Then the girl’s family decide to move to San Diego, far away from Taiwan. The girl goes to school in America with children of all colors. She doesn’t speak English yet, but she is learning. She calls her grandmother regularly. When they return to Taiwan for a visit, it feels different and she can’t communicate in Chinese as well as she used to. Her Popo’s house seems smaller though it smells just the same and her dumplings taste the same too. When her grandmother gets sick, the girl wishes she lived closer, but a dream is just the right thing to being them together after all.
This #ownvoices picture book is based on the author’s childhood, moving from Taipei to Albuquerque. It shows how a long-distance connection between a grandparent and grandchild is possible, keeping memories fresh and new experiences shared with one another. The book is filled with elements of Taiwan, such as New Year’s celebrations, dumplings and other food. Smells of Taiwan are mentioned regularly, wafting through experiences and dreams.
Kuo’s art is bold and beautiful. She allows the little girl to age through the course of the story, toddling in the park then heading to school, becoming less round and more lean as the pages turn. Popo also ages, the lines on her face more pronounced and her hair changing from black to gray. It is subtle and beautifully done.
A gentle story of immigration and continued connection to those left behind. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by Roaring Brook Press.
When grandmother heads to her garden, her granddaughters know to follow her. They spread blankets on the ground and get their magic rocks. Grandma taught them that the rocks are alive with wisdom from the long time they have spent on earth, so they respectfully call them grandmothers and grandfathers. The rocks are used in the sweat lodge where they help send songs and prayers into the air and to ancestors. The girls ask about the rocks that can heal. Grandma shows the colorful crystals and shares stories about them. They look at rocks worn by the water and others that fell from the sky. The rocks remind them of their place in the world, of their brief time on earth, their connection to the stars.
Gonzalez writes in beautiful short sentences, showing the connection between the generations of a Native American family, between the group of granddaughters and their grandmother. It’s a book that slows down, lingering over the various rocks, telling their stories, explaining their importance and making space for some dreams too. There is joy here, a delight in time spent together in a lovely garden and in the rocks themselves and what they mean.
Garcia’s illustrations are unique and creative. She lights each illustration as if the family and rocks glow from outside and within. The colors are deep and evocative. The book moves from the brightness of daylight to night with its purples and more subtle light. It is beautiful and filled with portraits of the family members.
An inviting look at rocks, their mystical qualities and how they connect us all. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by Cinco Puntos Press.
This picture book is based on one of Dovey Johnson Roundtree’s favorite stories of her childhood and her grandmother, Rachel Bryant Graham. Born over 100 years ago, Roundtree grew up to be a renowned civil rights attorney. She and her grandmother headed into the night in midsummer. They move through the darkness to the woods to gather blackberries. As they walk through the night, other women join them, silent in the dark. The darkness gets thicker as they move into the woods, and Dovey’s grandmother encourages her to hold onto her apron strings and let her eyes adjust. They reach the blackberry clearing and everyone gets to work but not before Dovey gets the first and best berry to eat. They pick berries, the women chatting, until the sky turns pink and at her grandmother’s command the sun rises over the horizon.
McCabe takes a powerful moment in Roundtree’s life and turns it into a picture book that invites children to explore the woods at night and not be afraid. There is a sense of adventure throughout the book illuminated with the wonder of being out in a summer night. The profound silence of the night and its darkness make for a book full of mystery with text that asks to be read in a hushed tone to share the moment with one another all the way through sunrise.
Figueroa’s illustrations are rich and beautiful. She takes the darkness and tinges it with blue, teal and purple to show paths, faces and the women walking together. She also sweeps the path with fireflies and glimmers, adding to the wonder of the book.
A story that serves as an allegory for resilience, going through the darkness and knowing the sun will rise. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by Roaring Brook Press.