A little girl enters a crowded cafe with her family, insisting that she can make a train noise. As they take off their coats and sit at a table, the little girl continues to state that she can make a train noise, and that she will do it NOW! Jumping down from her chair, her imagination takes over as all of the customers form a line and quickly transform into passengers on a train. The train moves through a city formed from kitchen utensils, ketchup and mustard. It makes its way out in realistic oceanside settings and mountains with prairies. As the train slows to a stop, readers return to the bustling restaurant where everyone is talking about trains now.
This picture book is written in very simple lines, repeating “I can make a train noise” and “Now!” again and again. Using simple punctuation to slow the lines down or speed them up, the rhythm the repeating lines make is captivating and very impactful. This is a picture book that is ideal to share aloud and then share it again with the group joining in with the repeating lines. It’s a book that begs to be done aloud.
The illustrations are a large part of the success of this book. Given the simplicity of the text, they carry the weight of the story and the little girl’s imagination. I love the nod to In the Night Kitchen with the city made of condiments and kitchen gear. The transformation of cafe to train is joyous and fun, with everyone happily going along for the ride together. The speech bubbles in the cafe scenes are very effective and done only in images.
A grand ride on a little girl’s imagination. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
When the world gets too busy and big, you can look at the smaller pieces around you. You can put those things in a quiet place like a museum in your mind. Or maybe it could be a real museum. It could have things like a Museum of Islands because there are so many kinds and sizes. A Museum of Bushes could have skirts made out of different bushes and then real bushes too. A Museum of Shadows could have usual shadows but also ones that you don’t expect. The Sky Museum is already right over your head, ready to be seen every day. All these small pieces fit together in one large puzzle, creating the Museum of Everything all around us all the time.
Newbery Medalist Perkins has created a picture book exploration of imagination that invites readers to look around themselves and see the elements that are worthy of placement in their own museums of everything. She takes expansive ideas and turns them firm and real with her examples given through the perspective of the child narrator of the book. The result are charming stories of bushes, hiding places, shadows and much more. The everyday is turned amazing.
Her illustrations are done in a wide variety of media. Some pages are done in collage, the paper elements overlapping into a layered world. Other pages are filled with objects that celebrate bushes and hidden places. These are 3 dimensional dioramas or sculptures that draw readers right into them.
Celebrating the extraordinary ordinary, this picture book is a lesson in imagination and creativity. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by Greenwillow Books.
The award-winning team that brought us Last Stop on Market Street have returned with another picture book together. This picture book is also about traveling on public transportation with Milo and his sister traveling on the subway together. Milo passes the time on the long ride by looking at the people around him on the subway. He imagines what their life is like and then draws it in in his book. Looking at a man with a crossword puzzle, Milo imagines him in an apartment with lots of pets. When a little boy in a suit comes on the train, Milo imagines that the boy is a prince who lives in a castle. A woman in a wedding dress, Milo pictures as soaring up in a hot air balloon after her wedding ceremony. When a group of dancers whirl aboard the train, Milo imagines that they are not welcome in stores or in fancy neighborhoods. When they reach their destination, Milo and his sister head into the prison, where he sees the boy in the suit in line too. Milo rethinks his image of the boy and all of the others he drew on his trip.
This is one of those marvels of a picture book that is told in a straight forward way and also manages to insist that readers think again, assess themselves. It is done without lecture or shaming, an exploration of assumptions made from people’s appearances and then how wrong they can be. Milo himself is a great protagonist for this, creative and thoughtful. He shows how race and economic status factors into stereotypes and how different the truth can actually be.
Robinson creates a diverse urban setting for Milo to experience, filled with people of all races. His cut paper images are full of characters of all ages and different cultures. Readers will find themselves thinking about the others on the train just as Milo does, making their own assumptions.
Another gem of a picture book from two masterful artists. Appropriate for ages 5-7.
Reviewed from copy provided by G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers.
Sato became a rabbit one day and has been one ever since. Told in short chapters, Sato goes about his days. He waters the plants around his house using a very long hose, a very special hose. In the second story, there is a sea of grass where Sato hangs his laundry that soon becomes a rollicking sea of water. A meteor storm becomes a way to light a path. A watermelon becomes a boat. After the rain, puddles reflect the sky, giving Sato a portal to the clouds. Walnut shell halves lead to unique little worlds of their own. Colored ice from the forest lets Sato taste emotions.
It’s a marvelously surreal little picture book that invites readers into Sato’s imagination as he explores the world around his home. It’s particularly marvelous that each of the inspiring elements is ever so normal, from laundry hanging near grass to eating watermelon or walnuts. The text is perfectly descriptive of what is happening, not giving away when reality becomes magical, just stating things frankly.
The art is bright and colorful, using the white space on the page to create smaller illustrations and then suddenly move to full-page spreads that delight. The colors used are deep and rich, allowing Sato in his white rabbit outfit to really stand out on each page.
Wild and imaginative, this book invites children to join in the fun. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
This follow-up to Bedtime for Sweet Creatures returns to the same child and their family. This time the focus is bath time, which has the child hiding at first, until the magic of bath time becomes evident. There is the roar of the flowing tap which is like a waterfall. The tub is like a soft-scented sea that has monsters like the rubber duck floating in it! Bubbles and splashing are also part of the fun. Diving deep under water has the boats floating in the tub almost capsizing. Eventually, hair gets washed too and then the tub is drained and it’s towel time. The sea is left behind in the bathroom, until tomorrow.
Grimes takes another everyday event for small children and imbues it with real magic and imagination. Throughout this book, there is a definite playfulness from both parents that makes the entire bath time successful and fun. Grimes has written the book in the second person, so the book speaks directly to the child listening to the story. This lets the child remain non-gendered in the story, wonderfully inclusive writing.
Zunon’s illustrations are done in collage. She creates shining faces filled with love and emotion in this small family. There is joy in her depictions of the evolving imaginary world and also in the real world too. Using bright colors, action and flowing water filled with patterns, this book is vibrant.
Another winner from this collaborative pair. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
June Bug lives with her mother in the house on Trowbridge Road that everyone thinks is haunted. Her father died of AIDS, leaving June Bug with her mother who is scared of germs and obsessed with being clean. That means that she never leaves the house and food can be scarce. June Bug’s uncle brings her food once a week, limited because her mother won’t allow him to come more often, so she is often hungry as the supplies run out. Then Ziggy arrives to live with his grandmother down the road. June Bug watches them from a nearby tree, dreaming of being friends and sharing the food that his grandmother prepares for him throughout the day. Ziggy too has experienced his own troubles, immediately getting the attention of the local bullies. As June Bug and Ziggy meet and become friends, their troubles mount, but they have one another as a safe place to share and heal, because at times home is not that place at all.
Set in the mid-80’s, this novel for middle graders is written with such beauty. Pixley creates a neighborhood that is lovingly shown as a mix of safety, imaginative play and also reveals the harshness of reality too. From the foundations of a fallen house where magic blossoms to the shelter of a large tree that can be scrambled up and down, this is a neighborhood seen through the eyes of two creative children who create their own reality together to care for one another.
The two protagonists are children who have experience abuse of various kinds and find kindred spirits in one another. They have both been hungry, both been physically hurt, and both lived with emotional abuse. They are both survivors, using their imagination and the neighborhood itself as places to escape to together. The power of love soars through this book, in extended families who offer care and shelter, in neighbors who reach out and take action. It’s a book about being able to ask for help and the positive change that can come when aid arrives.
Wrenching, powerful and filled with hope, this book is exceptional. Appropriate for ages 11-14.
Ty loves adventures and most of all he wishes his family would play with him. But his father is busy making dinner, his mother is folding the laundry, and his big brother is doing his homework. Ty spots an empty box and knows just what to do with it. Soon he has built a train engine and begins a journey down the tracks. At the first stop, someone is waiting! It’s Daddy, who climbs aboard. At the next stop, it’s Momma who comes aboard in time to see the city go by. The next stop has his big brother join in. The last stop comes eventually and they are back home just in time for dinner.
There is real challenge in writing a good easy reader and Lyons meets that challenge head on here. With her story of a supportive and playful family, she has a story that can be told simply. It has plenty of action and motion to keep the story moving forward in a way that is paced perfectly for new readers.
The illustrations by Mata are friendly and use the white space on the page nicely. They support the text on the page, offering new readers just the right amount of support visually. She also shows the imaginary journey clearly using crayon and simpler graphics that are done in a childlike style.
This series is a great pick for new readers. Appropriate for ages 3-6.
Little Bear collects all sorts of treasures: a shiny button, a clothespin, a shy piece of fluff, a magic stick, and much more. He was a great treasure finder. But the other animals don’t understand and consider all of what he gathers to be just junk. The Little Bear meets Little Bird, who immediately understands that Bear’s stick is magical. Soon the two set out to discover treasures together. And they find all sorts of wonderful things! They discover thinking hats, glittering fish, a swinging tree, mysterious fog, a furry rock, and much more. When night fell, the two looked up to the sky to find an amazing treasure they could share along with the dreams of future adventures together.
Imported from Germany, this picture book is a celebration of creativity and imaginative play. Particularly touching is the fact that Little Bear continued being himself despite the mocking of other animals. Finding a true friend though allows him to discover ever so much more than he did on his own. The ending is lovely as stardust cover them and sleep overtakes them. Perfect for dreaming of your own treasures.
Dries has won many awards for her illustrations. They are marvelously unique and dreamy, filled with dust and fog, blueberries and trees. The illustrations glow on the page, lit from within as if sun shines from just off the page.
A gem of a book perfect for your own treasure hunter. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by Greystone Kids.
The little girl who narrates the story loves to build sandcastles. She doesn’t just build regular ones though, she builds huge and elaborate creations. It has turrets and a moat. Inside are curving staircases and large windows. Soon the sandcastle brings kings and queens from around the world to visit. The royalty loved the castle, particularly the endless supply of ice cream. But the next morning, troubles started as the food got sand in it. The next day, the knights got sand their armor. The plants in the greenhouse started to wilt because they were not meant to grow in pure sand. Everything was being spoiled by the sand: locks wouldn’t open, baths were sandy, and the beds were itchy. Everyone was angry. So that’s when the little girl created one more thing out of sand: a sand ball to have a sandy fight. But suddenly, the waves came and washed everyone out to sea, the sandcastle and all. There was just one thing left to do: build a sandcastle.
This delight of a summer read captures the wonderful tales that children making sandcastles tell themselves as they build. Their creations may not be as grand and large as this one, certainly not big enough to enter, but they will recognize their own visions of grandeur and the marvel of creating a castle of their own. The entire book is wry and funny, from the variety of royalty who visit to the various complaints that living in a sandcastle creates. When the water finally rushes in, there is a moment of contentment in a job fully completed. And then started again.
The illustrations are done digitally and have a sharp crispness to them. The first pages are filled with others crowding the beach and are a joy to explore visually. That then makes way to the opportunity of building a sandcastle near the water and the marvelous details provided there.
A funny sun-drenched sandy delight. Appropriate for ages 3-5.