Isaac is on his very first sleepover at Grandpop’s house. He’s had a great time, but isn’t looking forward to sleeping away from home. Isaac insists that he isn’t sleepy, so he and Grandpop put the house to bed together. They move quietly and slowly, turning off the lights. As the house gets darker, Isaac hears noises, but they are easily explained as being the dog or the wind moving the swings outside. The window shades are closed for the night and they head upstairs, listening to the sounds of the creaking house. Then Isaac reads a picture book aloud and puts Grandpop to sleep. Then it’s up to him to listen to the sounds of the house and say good night.
This is a gentle story about sleeping over at a grandparent’s home for the first time. Isaac is unsure but also excited, an accurate portrayal of the mix of feelings that young children have at staying away from home, particularly for the first time. The quiet and slow good-night process adds to the lovely bedtime tone. I particularly appreciate that it is a grandfather doing this loving moment with his grandson.
The illustrations offer just the right mixture of glowing lights, gathering darkness, and warmth as this Black grandfather and grandson share a special evening together. This book is not one to startle or scare and the illustrations take real care in exposing what the noises actually are in the house. The empowering final scenes when Isaac is the last one up also set the perfect tone.
Quiet and filled with building self-esteem. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
A house stood on a hill. It was worried because it didn’t have a family to live in it. In fact, the house wondered if it might be haunted! But it didn’t want to be haunted, and hoped that if it behaved perfectly no one would notice that it was spooky. Still, there was nothing to be done about the cobwebs and dust, or the squeaky doors and stairs or the rattles in the pipes. The house tried very hard, staying perfectly still and quiet, holding her breath. But when the wind came, she couldn’t stop the scratch of branches on the roof or the groan of the wind through her windows. It let the house relax again, accepting that she was just spooky. Now all she needed was a family looking for a haunted house that rattled, groaned and squeaked.
This picture book reads aloud really nicely, inviting readers into the struggle of a house that dreams of being entirely different than she is. The writing draws out the noises that the house makes, featuring them so that children listening to the story can help make the sounds too. The house itself is a marvelous character, struggling to be different until she accepts herself as she is with all her creaks and scratches.
The art is just the right amount of spooky for preschoolers, full of purple shadows, long green grass and a black cat to enter the house with. The house herself uses her windows to great effect to smile, worry, and eventually come alight in the night.
A little spooky, full of noise and lots of fun. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from copy provided by Simon and Schuster.
This sequel to Julia’s House for Lost Creatures carries readers back to the marvels of the Julia’s unusual house and the creatures she shares it with. Julia’s house was getting restless and all of the different creatures who lived there could feel it and started to act out too. Luckily, Julia had a plan for moving them, she even knew just the spot in the mountains for them. But then, the turtle whose back carried the house decided to move right then, down into the ocean. Now the house was tattered and barely afloat. Julia though had a plan filled with paddling and pushing but the house sunk faster and sharks were circling. She went to her other plan, and blew on Triton’s Horn but that didn’t work out either. With her house sinking, the creatures floated off away from Julia. All was lost. Or perhaps they had their own plan!
Written just for compulsive planners like myself, this picture book is funny and full of dynamic moments. Hatke, the creator of graphic novels like Zita the Spacegirl, is just as at home in the picture book format. His pacing is brisk, never letting poor Julia linger for long in her new spot of trouble. Julia’s plans are feats in themselves, constantly figuring out what to do, and show real resilience in dire situations.
As with all of Hatke’s art, he creates characters who are fascinating, friendly and full of life. Here he gets to delve into all sorts of strange creatures too who liven up the story. His illustrations are worth lingering over, with small touches that make Julia’s house come alive (literally).
Perhaps the perfect COVID fantasy read that shows how communities can work to save one another. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Leo lived with his father in a blue house that they loved. The paint may have been peeling, there may have been leaks, and it might shake when the wind blew, but the house was theirs. It was cold in the winter, but Leo and his dad just baked pies to keep the kitchen warm and had dance parties in their hats and scarves. The house had a big garden and a yard where Leo loved to spend all day playing. But their neighborhood was changing, and eventually it was their house that needed to be knocked down. They got evicted by their landlord and had to move. Leo was very angry, and his father let him express it with angry music but they still needed to pack. After painting their farewell on the walls, they left and moved into a white house, a house that didn’t feel at all like home. But perhaps they could make it feel better after all.
There is so much to love about this picture book with its look at the cost of new construction on a neighborhood and a family. It is also a book that celebrates this small family of a dad and son and the way they deal with forced changes in their lives. The focus here is on quality of life rather than wealth, on home rather than real estate, on love rather than land. The story shares these ideals of simple living without preaching, never pushing them, just showing how a life focused on love looks.
Wahl’s art is marvelous. The end pages of the book show the full neighborhood that this little family lives in. Then readers get to see their home with its rambling garden, laundry on the line, trampoline and rather ramshackle house. It’s a home filled with delights of home-baked pies, rock music, dancing and togetherness. The long-haired little boy and his father are marvelously modern with an engaging nod towards simpler times throughout the images.
Richly illustrated, this picture book focuses on love and simple joys. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Papi is strong, because he works hard all day long as a bricklayer. He builds walls, spreading the mortar, tapping the brick in place, and scraping the drips. He climbs high on scaffolds. Luis doesn’t mind heights either, climbing to the top of the jungle gym. They have a dream of a their own house, but it’s a “someday” dream. Father and child have the same lunches of empanada and horchata. Then both head back to work and school. At night, Papi returns home, hot and tired. On Saturday, Papi has a surprise. After a long drive, they pull up to a brick house, their new always home!
Told in simple language just right for smaller children, this book speaks to the hard work, resilience and patience it takes to create a home. Sheffield cleverly uses repetition in her text and mirrors the experience of father and son throughout their day.
The design of the book is exceptional. She has created the illustrations from photographs, collage and digital painting. She also notes that Luis and his father are formed from photographs of bricks, strong and resolute. The warm color palette is brightened with blue skies. The city skyline is formed from bricks as well as words like “dream” and “build.”
Strong and vibrant. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by Nancy Paulsen Books.
The little blue cottage on the bay waited patiently every year for the little girl to return. She came with the warmer weather, taking up her place in the window seat and looking out at the water. The cottage was her favorite place, filled with dolphins, seagulls, swimming and boats. When fall came, the little girl and her family left once again, leaving the cottage to face winter. Still, summer came each year and the girl arrived, growing ever bigger. Eventually though, she and the family stopped coming, leaving the blue cottage to fade to gray, empty and waiting for years. Then one day, the girl, now a mother, returned to her beloved cottage to repair it, repaint it a merry blue, and live in it once more.
Jordan’s text invites readers to really experience the seasonality of cottage life. She uses near rhymes and natural rhythms to share both the joy and loneliness of the cottage that mirrors the emotions of the humans in the story as well. The long seasons of neglect have a quiet dignity to them, while the triumphant return is a marvelous ending.
The illustrations are detailed and visually interesting. They show the cottage on its own little beach, the beauty of the busyness of the family and the light they bring with them. The growing weeds and fading paint are particularly well done. The family is multicultural, adding to the book’s appeal.
Just right for vacation reading, this one will have you dreaming of a cottage on the water. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Told in simple rhymes, this book invites the youngest children to explore its pages and engage with the questions asked inside. The book begins with houses, including a little tree house for the tiny mouse. Colors are explored and then there is counting on the next page combined with more colors. The book takes readers on a bus, into the ocean, on all sorts of transportation, and asks engaging questions of the reader along the way. The book ends by inviting readers to look for the mouse hiding in every illustration.
This picture book’s jaunty rhymes are reminiscent of classic children’s books like Go Dog Go! The way that children are invited to engage with the book is wonderful and will help parents new to sharing books with children understand the sorts of questions that can be asked about the images in any picture book. Gomez’s illustrations are full of pure and bright colors that leap from the page, glowing with red, green, blue, orange and pink. The people on the pages are diverse and the urban setting where most of the book takes place is busy and friendly.
Engaging and fun, this book is best shared with only a few children so their perspectives can be heard. Appropriate for ages 1-3.
Home Is a Window by Stephanie Parsley Ledyard, illustrated by Chris Sasaki (9780823441563)
A little girl celebrates her city home and all of the things that make it special. From the small touches like a basket for your shoes and plants in the corner to the lamplight at night from a neighbor’s window. Her family makes it special too, doing chores together, fixing mistakes, and helping one another. When the family moves to a new home, they take a lot of the elements that make it special with them. In the new house, they will once again create a home together.
In statements that begin with “Home is…” this picture book explores what makes a house a home. From the smells to the people to the windows themselves, each piece fits together like a puzzle. Ledyard’s prose asks people to slow down, to celebrate the everyday and small moments that make up their lives and their homes. The switch to a book about moving later in the book makes the first part all the more important and profound, allowing the family to rebuild easily the sense of home they always carry with them.
Sasaki’s illustrations show a multi-racial family spending days together filled with love and in a home that is warm and colorful. Those elements carry throughout the illustrations, each one making sure that readers know that small touches create a home. From lamplight at night to tables filled with family.
A beautiful look at family, home and moving. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
When the humans head out on vacation, the animals move in for their own holiday time. The beavers head to the kitchen to make plenty of snacks for everyone. The deer set up a dance party. A teen bear takes over the bathroom to curl her hair. The skunks used their cell phones. The bears used the humans’ tools to build things. Now there was no peace and quiet, no lack of screen time, and everything the indoor life had to offer. But as the week goes on, the parties and life of ease turn into one big mess. At the end of the week, it is clear that the animals are looking forward to returning to the peace of the outdoors. But what happens when the humans get home?
Told with a broad sense of humor, this picture book turns a lens on our own lifestyles and vacations. The joy of the animals at their return to the ease of electricity, TVs, cell phones and more is a great start to the book. As the vacation goes on though, the toll those options take is clear. Yet the book is not a lecture on modern convenience as the tone is kept light and humorous.
Chan’s art is marvelous, playing up the humor of the situation. From the tower of ice cream buckets arriving to the final mess of the house, the illustrations add so much to this picture book. Butter-licking deer, broken beds, nacho cheese in a toaster and more add to the final chaos.
A giggle of a book, this is a good one to share. Appropriate for ages 3-5.