The Imaginaries by Emily Winfield Martin (9780375974328)
Told in fragments of stories with stirring paintings to accompany them, this book is like a series of gems on a necklace, each discrete and beautiful. Just like the necklace, they also work together side-by-side to create something larger than themselves. There are glimpses of large sea creatures. A girl journeys in the forest, but she is not alone. Cats and birds, flowers and lions appear on the pages. There are masks to conceal and masks to reveal. There are bats that soar and an alligator to ride.
Each image is paired with writing on a literal scrap of paper. Torn from envelopes, carefully folden, sometimes corrected, on the backs of postcards, each one is different and fascinating. Take those lines from untold stories and pair them with images that create something incredibly moving, bright glimpses into one story and then the next. These are tales you long to be completed, where girls perch on the moon and libraries are filled with music and animals. It is to Martin’s credit that they feel like a whole piece rather than transient images and words set side-by-side. They form a universe of stories to linger in.
The illustrations are whimsical and beautiful. The effect is rather like looking into a series of windows and being able to linger with a story for just a moment before moving on. There are repeating themes of companionship, concealment and surprise on the pages, each captured in a painting that is lush and carefully done.
A very unusual book and one that is at times almost surreal, this is one to celebrate. Appropriate for ages 5-7.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by Random House.
Just in Case You Want to Fly by Julie Fogliano, illustrated by Christian Robinson (9780823443444)
This poetic picture book invites children to take a journey, up into the sky with the some wind, a feather, and a butterfly’s wing. On the adventure, there is are other things offered just in case. Just in case you get an itch, here’s a scratch on the back. Here is a fork and a spoon, a rock and a wish. There are jokes, bells that ring, and your toothbrush too. Honey for tea, a pillow for bed, a blanket, a dream and kisses on the head.
This book is exhilarating and filled with dreams of journeys large and small. It makes a regular day seem like it is full of magical moments, where pennies are wishes, bells ringing are special, and snacks are gifts. At the same time, it doesn’t look away from larger magic like rhinos on the pages, favorite giraffes and umbrellas in the bath. It’s a book full of delights and wonders.
Robinson’s illustrations add to Fogliano’s poetry. He embraces the whimsical nature of the text, creating beauty in the every day too. His pages are filled with characters of different races, all merrily playing together and eventually heading to bed.
A marvelous bedtime read all set to create gorgeous dreams. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from copy provided by Holiday House.
I Am a Tiger by Karl Newson, illustrated by Ross Collins (9781338349894)
Released July 30, 2019.
A very confident little mouse declares that he is actually a tiger. The other animals don’t believe him at first, but he manages to demonstrate that he can growl like a tiger, climb trees like a tiger and even hunt for his lunch. When a real tiger comes along, the mouse declares that the tiger is a mouse! After all, the tiger has a twitchy nose, little hands and feet, and probably ate cheese recently. Mouse continues to show that he has all sorts of tiger-like skills. The defeated real tiger asks then what the other animals are and Mouse gives them all sorts of new identities, including a banana and a balloon. When Mouse leaves and gets a glimpse of himself in the water though, he realizes that he isn’t a tiger after all. Maybe he still isn’t a mouse either?
Newson’s writing is brisk and bright. Done entirely in dialogue, this book begs to be shared aloud with children. Children will love the confident little mouse and his ability to make ludicrous claims and stand by them. Mouse is a great character, becoming all the more interesting when he discovers he isn’t really a tiger after all. The twist at the end is a delight that doesn’t discourage Mouse in the least. The illustrations by Collins are large and colorful. They help tell the full story of what is happening and carry a lot of the humor too.
An uproarious picture book about a little mouse with a big imagination. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from ARC provided by Scholastic.
Vroom! by Barbara McClintock (9781626722170)
One evening, Annie puts on her helmet and gloves and drives her car right out her bedroom window and out onto the road. The road is straight and flat, just right for driving really fast. When she reaches the mountains, the road gets curvy and cold, then descends into the hot desert. She drives through a forest, then across a huge bridge and into a city where she gets caught in traffic for awhile. She goes fast through the traffic jam, and then faster onto a racetrack. Getting tired, she heads for home, arriving just in time for a bedtime story about cars.
This picture book embraces imaginative play in a little girl’s world as she pretends to be taking the perfect drive. Her white car is pristine at the beginning of the story and ends up covered in dirt and grass with a little smoke coming out of the hood. Annie doesn’t bother to slow down much and not even her imaginary traffic jam can hold her for long. The book, just like Annie, is fast moving with just enough words to hold the story together. The illustrations are filled with the dust of Annie’s racing past. Done in bright colors, the world around her is friendly and vivid with Annie at its center going fast.
A wild ride of a book that is a joy. Appropriate for ages 2-5.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by Farrar, Straus and Giroux,
The Neighbors by Einat Tsarfati (9781419731686)
A little girl with a big imagination lives in a seven-story building. On her way up to the seventh floor, where she lives, she imagines who lives behind each of the other doors. Each floor has a different door with things outside that give her clues to the type of family or person who might live there. She imagines that the door with many locks and lots of security leads to a family of thieves. Another door with lots of plants outside opens to a jungle lived in by an old explorer and his pet tiger. As she climbs higher, her imagination gets wilder, filling the apartments with vampires, pirates and mermaids. Her home is the most mundane, or is it?
Told in first person by the little girl, this book builds off of a straightforward concept and into a world of make-believe. The text is simple, steadily counting upwards as the girl ascends the stairs. The girl’s imagination is vivid and captivating with much of it being shown in the illustrations rather than being told in the text.
The illustrations are done in bright colors, moving from the white backgrounds of the stairway and hall to bright colors that each imaginative family lives inside. Their apartments are filled with details that are worth lingering over too.
A very enjoyable look at living in an apartment building and using one’s imagination. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from copy provided by Abrams.
Is That You, Eleanor Sue? by Tricia Tusa (9781250143235)
Saturdays are the days that Eleanor Sue gets to do her favorite thing: dress up. So she dresses up, climbs out her window and knocks on the front door. When her mother opens the door, Eleanor Sue introduces herself as Mrs. McMuffins, the new neighbor. She is invited in for tea. Twenty minutes later, Eleanor Sue is back at the door as a witch. She is invited in for lunch. Then Eleanor Sue is a wise wizard, a ferocious bear, a delivery person, and a cat. Her next outfit is being dressed as a grandma, specifically her Grandma. But her mother may just get in on the act too, just in time for Grandma herself to appear and join the fun.
Tusa’s picture book is a delight. She shares not only the story of Eleanor Sue’s imaginative play but also a supporting mother and family who enjoy Eleanor Sue’s antics. The stories that Eleanor Sue tells as each character are a large part of the book, adding funny details that interplay between the various costumes. There is one fast-paced portion where Eleanor Sue has to hustle with costume changes that adds to the fun. As always with a Tusa book, the illustrations are beautifully done. She has a knack of capturing children at play complete with wrinkled, drooping cloth, and wry expressions.
Full of imagination and playfulness, this should be read while sipping tea. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from copy provided by Roaring Brook Press.
Zola’s Elephant by Randall de Seve, illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski (9781328886293)
In this exceptional picture book, Zola moves in next door to a little girl. The two mothers have already met and decided the girls should be friends, but the little girl knows that Zola already has a friend. After all, Zola has a box large enough for an elephant and the girl knows that elephants make wonderful friends. As the girl heads different noises, she also thinks about the fun that Zola is having with her elephant. They are taking merry baths together, playing hide-and-seek, and building a lovely clubhouse together. But the truth is shown in the illustrations, explaining the noises that are being heard as much more mundane and downright lonely. Will the little girl have the courage to head over and meet Zola for real?
The text here is rich and evocative. It displays the wealth of imagination that the nameless narrator has as she builds entire worlds of play and merriment from seeing one large box and hearing some noises. It is a book that explores shyness and loneliness and how they live side-by-side and how they can be fixed by one act of bravery. Beautifully, the lonely new neighbor’s pages have no words on them, allowing the image to simply tell the truth.
With illustrations by a two-time Caldecott honoree, the illustrations are detailed, deep and beautiful. Zagarenski manages to create two parallel worlds, one of imagination and brightness and the other stark and blue with isolation. She then captures the moment when those two worlds meet. Done with a circus theme that is embedded in all of the illustrations, she pays homage to the elephant fully even though it doesn’t actually exist.
Beautiful and rich, this picture book is unique and imaginative. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from library copy.
The Little Barbarian by Renato Moriconi (9780802855091)
In this wordless picture book, a barbarian mounts his horse and proceeds across a series of challenges and obstacles. They leap a crevasse, are attacked by a flock of birds, jump a pit of snakes, dodge arrows, avoid orcs and much more. Page after page is a new obstacle and the little barbarian blithely marching, leaping or galloping across the page. Children who enjoy fantasy creatures will love this barbarian who faces the challenges with his eyes closed and sword and shield raised. When the truth is revealed at the end of the book, everyone will want another ride.
There is plenty of space for young imaginations to fill in the stories. That is probably the best part of this. I don’t expect the book to read particularly quickly with small children, who will want to supply monster noises, sword crashes and heroic details to the tale. Still, the oblivious way the barbarian crosses the pages is quite funny. The high and low paths the barbarian takes make perfect sense at the end of the book with the twist. The illustrations are humorous, colorful and filled with imagination, making the book entirely compelling.
A delight of a wordless read, this is one that children with their own toy swords will love. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from library copy.
Adrian Simcox Does Not Have a Horse by Marcy Campbell, illustrated by Corinna Luyken (9780735230378)
Adrian Simcox is always talking at school about the horse that he owns. But Chloe knows he is lying, since he lives with his grandfather in a small house in town. There is no room there for a horse. She also knows that Adrian’s family isn’t wealthy and a horse costs a lot of money to keep. So Chloe complains to her friends, her mother and eventually to the entire class about Adrian lying. When Chloe’s mother takes her to Adrian’s house, Chloe knows she is going to be proven right. But she doesn’t bargain for what she is actually going to find there.
This beautifully told story will have readers siding with Chloe from the beginning, since her reasons for not believing Adrian are clear and logical. Still, as the story unfolds readers will start to understand what Adrian is doing long before Chloe does and will begin to feel for him and relate to Adrian. The book does this without becoming didactic at all, instead naturally leading children to an empathy before Chloe gets there. The prose is strong and the pacing is just right in this quiet book.
The illustrations by Luyken are done with lots of white space around Chloe and then riotous plants and gardens around Adrian. Even on the playground, there is a sense that Adrian can create his own world out of imagination, filling the white space in a way that the others can’t. It’s an ideal analogy for the story line itself.
A great book to discuss lying and imagination, friendship and support. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from ARC provided by Dial Books.