Red by Jed Alexander (9781944903114)
A wordless riff on the traditional Little Red Riding Hood tale, this picture book offers an initial title page that will show immediately that it’s a different sort of story. With a huge wolf holding wrapping paper in his mouth and Grandma waiting for him arrive, the tale then moves to a very little Red Riding Hood being stopped by the large wolf on her way in the woods. Other animals appear with presents, ribbons and even a cake. The wolf delays Red until the other animals and Grandma are ready and they surprise her with a birthday party! The day ends with Red riding off on the wolf merrily.
The illustrations use pops of red and pink to show the elements of the party and Red’s cloak. Otherwise they are filled with black and white ink drawings featuring a grinning rather devious wolf, rabbits and badgers, and one determined little girl.
A winning new take on a traditional story. Appropriate for ages 2-5.
Reviewed from copy provided by Cameron Kids.
The Best Tailor in Pinbaue by Eymard Toledo (9781609808044)
Edinho’s uncle is the best tailor in the small town of Pinbaue in Brazil. He used to make bright-colored and beautiful clothes and costumes for the villagers, but now he just makes uniforms for the factory where almost everyone in town works. Edinho’s father doesn’t work for the factory either, he still keeps fishing though the pollution from the factory has impacted the quality and quantity of the fish. Then the factory decides to import their uniforms and suddenly Uncle Flores doesn’t have any work to do. When Edinho discovers bright fabric in storage, he has an idea that just might help the entire village. The text of this picture book is sprinkled with Portuguese words. The writing is clear and very readable, offering a fictional village that speaks to the plight of real small villages across Brazil and other countries.The illustrations are fascinating collages worth poring over. Fine details, textured papers and lots of patterns create a rich world. A compelling look at the impact of large factories on villages and how children can make a difference. Appropriate for ages 5-8. (Reviewed from library copy.)
Grandma’s Purse by Vanessa Brantley- Newton (9781524714314)
An African-American little girl’s grandma Mimi is coming to visit and she lets the little girl look at what she carries in her purse! There is a mirror for putting on lipstick, perfume, earrings, hairpins, candy, and much more. Larger things include her phone, a scarf, glasses, and a coin purse filled with coins and memories. The two of them talk about each thing and then the little girl gets to try some of it out, including the lipstick, hairpins, scarf and glasses. Then they look at pictures from the grandmother’s purse that show Grandma Mimi as a little girl. There is one last thing way at the bottom of the purse, and it’s just for Mimi’s granddaughter this time! Told with an eye to explaining what the grandmother is carrying and why, this exploration of a purse is pure joy. The connection between the girl and grandmother is tangible on the page and celebrated in each illustration. I particularly love the messy lipstick on the little girl and her joy at each discovery. A winning look at a special relationship. Appropriate for ages 3-5. (Reviewed from copy received from Alfred A. Knopf.)
Grandma’s Tiny House: A Counting Story by JaNay Brown-Wood, illustrated by Priscilla Burris
Grandma is getting ready for a party. With two turkeys already baked, the neighbors start to show up. Three of them bring four dishes to pass. Five family members come with six dozen biscuits and jam. The counting continues through the story with lemonade, cheesecakes, sweet-potato pies, and honeydew melons being brought by more and more people. When the party starts, the house is too full for people to move. One little granddaughter has the solution and the party moves outside to the big backyard. While this is clearly a counting book, the story of a warm and large family is really at its heart. The illustrations by Burris are welcoming and warm. Readers will want their own outside party filled with great food, friends and family. Expect lots of watering mouths as you share this book. Appropriate for ages 2-4. (Reviewed from library copy.)
Where, Oh Where, Is Baby Bear? By Ashley Wolff (9781481499163)
This picture book continues Wolff’s series on Baby Bear and his explorations of his habitat. Here, Baby Bear and his mother head out to look for food. But every time his mother looks for him, Baby Bear has disappeared. Again and again she has to call out “Where, oh where, is Baby Bear” and then her little bear responds. Readers will enjoy spotting where Baby Bear is heading and then where he is hiding as the pages turn. The repetition is handled nicely, giving the book a lovely rhythm when being read aloud. The illustrations are crisp and filled with details of their forest home. A great read aloud pick. Appropriate for ages 1-4. (Review copy provided by Beach Lane Books.)
Where’s Halmoni? By Julie Kim (9781632170774)
This picture book is done in a full-color graphic-novel style that will be appealing to children even beyond picture book age. It is the story of Korean-American siblings who head to their grandmother’s home to find her missing. They discover a magical passage in her home that leads to a world filled with creatures from Korean folklore. There is Tokki (the rabbit), Dokkebi (the goblins), and Horanghee (the tiger). As the children figure out how to get past each of the creatures using snacks and games, they come close to learning their grandmother’s secret. Sharp-eyed children will realize what happens to the fox at the end of this Korean adventure. The appeal of folklore combined with a modern graphic-novel style makes this book a winner. Appropriate for ages 5-9. (Reviewed from library copy.)
The Wolf, the Duck & the Mouse by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jon Klassen
When a mouse is gobbled up by a wolf, he discovers there is life after being eaten. Inside the wolf’s stomach, a duck is already living. The duck has a bed, a table, tablecloth, chairs and much more. The duck likes being inside the wolf, because he no longer has to worry about being eaten, since it’s already happened. Soon the mouse has decided to stay and the two have a dance party to celebrate. Unfortunately, this makes the wolf’s stomach hurt. He is spotted by a hunter and soon all three animals are in danger as the hunter takes aim. What can be done to save them all? It will take all three to save the day. Barnett has the perfect rather dark humor to work with Klassen’s illustrations. The story has a mix of fun and fate that will have readers guessing right up until the end. Appropriate for ages 4-6. (Reviewed from library copy.)
Hello, Universe by Erin Entrada Kelly (9780062414151, Amazon)
Four middle schoolers start their summer vacation and steadily their lives begin to come together. There is Virgil, a quiet boy who lives in a family of loud, boisterous people. Except for his grandmother who understands him and tells him stories from her village in the Philippines. Valencia is a girl who is deaf and wears hearing aids to help her lip read. She used to have close friends but enjoys spending her days outside in the local woods where she takes care of a stray dog. Kaori believes that she has psychic powers and is helping Virgil gain the courage to speak with a girl he wants to be friends with. Finally, there is Chet who bullies Virgil and Valencia. He starts problems one day in the woods and Virgil finds himself in real danger. But can Kaori and Valencia figure out what has happened before it’s too late?
Kelly’s novel is rich and riveting. She writes about children who are lonely and interesting. The book speaks to children who don’t fit in, who are bullied, and who are unique in some way. It’s about staying true to yourself and not trying to be someone else. Important subjects weave throughout as well, including deafness and diversity. These enrich the novel even further, making it a book that grapples with important topics and yet stays entirely accessible and filled with plenty of action.
The characters are what make this book sing. Each of them is more than what could have been a stereotype. From the mystical Kaori to shy Virgil to Valencia and her hearing aids, each child has a full personality and plenty to offer the reader. Each is grappling with loneliness and unable to move forward though they know they need to. There is a beautiful theme of folktales and myth throughout the novel with the grandmother’s stories forming a basis for the coincidences and fate that brings our young heroes together.
An intelligent adventure of a book that is about friendships that seem impossible but happen anyway. Appropriate for ages 9-12.
Reviewed from copy received from HarperCollins Publishers.
Leave Me Alone by Vera Brosgol (InfoSoup)
A grandmother is all set to start knitting for her very big family, but they just keep on interrupting her. The children love to play with her balls of yarn and she can’t seem to find a quiet place to work. So she packs up her knitting things and heads out the door, shouting “Leave me alone!” She finds a quiet place in the woods to knit, but soon she catches the interest of some hungry bears. She again has to pack up and leave, shouting “Leave me alone!” It doesn’t get any better when she climbs a mountain and finds a cave to work in. The mountain goats find her yarn delicious and even eat her scarf too. So the grandmother climbs up the mountain and onto the moon. Even there, the aliens won’t leave her alone. Where can one grumpy grandma go to knit? You will be surprised by the answer!
I applaud a picture book willing to take something that has a traditional folklore theme hearkening back to The Old Woman in the Shoe and then twists it into a modern and wild picture book that you never ever realized was even headed your way. It’s an impressive shift that happens in the story, leading back ultimately to an ended that restores the folkloric tradition but along the way takes it in a scientific and funny direction. Children will love the twist, adults will enjoy the surprise making this a great book to share aloud.
Brosgol’s illustrations are a hoot. With every new area that the grandmother attempts to quietly knit in, it seems like the perfect choice at first. Then slowly and with great pacing, the interruptions appear and then devolve into wild abandon. There are very clever moments in the illustrations: a goat perched on the mountain of yarn, the hungry bear who doesn’t scare the grandmother a whit, and the goat that wanders up to the moon too.
An outstanding read aloud with a very surprising twist, this picture book is a great example of mixing folklore and science. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from library copy.
A Piece of Home by Jeri Watts, illustrated by Hyewon Yum (InfoSoup)
Hee Jun loved living in Korea where he fit in with his classmates at school and his grandmother was a respected teacher. She was also able to have an extraordinary garden there. When his father moves them to West Virginia, everything changes. Hee Jun does not fit in with his classmates due to the way he looks and the way he talks. His grandmother too is different, her inner spark gone. His little sister has problems at school too, taking out her fear physically on her teacher. So their grandmother is asked to go to school with her. Slowly, the family begins to find their place in West Virginia, even discovering a beloved flower with a new name.
Watts tells the story of immigration with an eye towards giving people time to adjust and find their footing both with a new language and a new culture. The sense of loss for the characters is palpable on the page, eliciting a real understanding of the immense change they are undergoing. The little sister’s violent reaction to school is handled with sensitivity and understanding, offering the grandmother a chance to connect with her new surroundings. The entire book is filled with deep emotions combined with a gentle nurturing attitude.
Yum’s illustrations are done in watercolor. They show a loving family that manages to thrive despite the changes. The differences between their lives in Korea and West Virginia are shown on the page, particularly with regards to the grandmother and her vibrant life in Korea compared to her lonely existence in the first weeks in the United States.
A strong and thoughtful look at immigration that beautifully explains the huge changes children undergo as they move to a new country. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from library copy.
As Brave As You by Jason Reynolds (InfoSoup)
Genie and Ernie are heading to Virginia to stay with their paternal grandparents for the very first time. Though they have met their grandmother before, this is the first time that Genie has met him. The difference between their lives in Brooklyn and their grandparents’ home in rural Virginia are huge. But that’s not the only thing that surprises Genie. He is shocked to find out that his grandfather is blind. Genie is a kid who is full of questions to ask all of the time and so he immediately asks his grandfather questions about his blindness. Genie knows that his older brother Ernie is braver than he is, always taking up fights for Genie and protecting him. He also knows that his grandfather is immensely brave too. When something goes wrong though, Genie will have to rethink what it means to be brave.
Reynolds is so amazingly gifted as a writer. He astounded me with this departure from his more urban writing. He captures the rural world with a beautiful clarity, using the natural world around as symbols for what is happening to the humans who live there. It is done both subtly and overtly, creating a book that is multi-layered and gorgeous to read. Throughout Reynolds speaks to real issues such as guns and disabilities. They are dealt in their complexity with no clear point of view stated, giving young readers a chance to think things through on their own.
Reynolds has created a fabulous protagonist in Genie, a boy filled with so many questions to ask that he has to write them down to keep track of them. He is smart, verbose and caring. Yet at the same time, he agonizes over mistakes, trying to fix them on his own and thus creating a lot of the tension of the book. The depiction of the grandparents is also beautifully done, allowing them to be far more than elderly figures. They are often raw, sometimes wise, and also dealing with life.
A brilliant read for the middle grades, this book is filled with magnificent writing and great diverse characters. Appropriate for ages 9-12.
Reviewed from copy received from Atheneum.
North Woods Girl by Aimee Bissonette, illustrated by Claudia McGehee (InfoSoup)
A girl tells about her grandmother who is not like other grandmas. She dresses in Grandpa’s old flannel shirts and she’s bony. She doesn’t bake cookies or pies, but she does take long walks out in nature. With her trusty walking stick, the two of them explore the little paths near Grandma’s house. Every season there are new things to see, things in the garden to do. The two love winter best of all, especially winter nights with a full moon when they explore the snowy woods. Grandma may not be like other grandma’s but she’s pretty special and a north woods girl to the quick.
Bissonette captures the spirit of a north woods woman beautifully in her picture book. From the no-fuss long grey braid, the flannel shirts, the stout boots to the way that nature speaks to her and that she knows it so well. This book is a celebration of the north woods too, the ways that the woods changes in different seasons, the animals that fill it, and the glory of a winter woods.
McGehee’s scratchboard illustrations have a rustic beauty. The colors are deep and lovely, and they capture the spirit of the woods. In fact, there are moments when you can almost smell the pines and the grass. There is a subtle multiculturalism here too with the little girl’s darker skin tone and curly hair. The pages are crowded with details of the woods, filled with animals and insects.
A lovely look at the northern woods, this picture book celebrates unique grandmothers living in a unique place. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from copy received from Minnesota Historical Society Press.
Mango, Abuela and Me by Meg Medina, illustrated by Angela Dominguez (InfoSoup)
Mia’s abuela has come to live with Mia and her family in the United States. She can’t speak English and Mia can’t speak Spanish, so the two of them spend time together in silence, feeding the birds and watching TV. Mia’s mother reminds her of how a classmate learned to speak English and Mia starts to work to teach her abuela the new language. They point at things and share the English and Spanish words. Mia labels items around the house with their English names. Then when Mia and her mother go to the pet store for treats for her hamster, Mia sees a parrot that she knows will remind her abuela of the home she left. Mango, the parrot, starts speaking both languages and helps Mia’s abuela connect with both her past and her granddaughter.
Medina has written this picture book with a lovely clarity of voice. The first person narrative is told from Mia’s point of view and shows the growing relationship with her grandmother, from the first shy days to the later part of the book where they are happily chatting and reading together. The book speaks to the importance of family and also to the ways that language can be learned and shared. It is particularly important that Mia learned Spanish too.
The illustrations are simple and colorful. They show the limited space that the family has, so Mia and her grandmother share a room together. The urban setting is shown with a bright friendliness that captures a vibrant community. The chronicling of the growing relationship is shown very effectively in the images.
A strong picture book that celebrates families and new language learners. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from library copy.