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.
Mabel lives at the Mermaid Hotel near the sea where she goes on many adventures without shoes. When a strange new guest arrives at the hotel, Mabel becomes a spy to try to figure out the story of the woman she dubs Madame Badobedah. The lady comes with her pet tortoise and lots of bags and trunks that could be filled with anything, including stolen treasure. After watching her for awhile, Mabel decides that the woman must be a supervillian who is hiding out at Mermaid Hotel. When Mabel’s spy cover is blown, Madame Badobedah invites her into her room for tea. Soon the two are traveling on imaginary adventures together that feature pirates and mermaids, a partnership of young and old.
This picture book has more text than many, but please don’t let that stop you! Dahl’s writing is sharp and witty, offering exactly the right amount of detail to conjure up the hotel fully and craft interesting characters who are fully realized. Told in Mabel’s voice, the book has the feel of a vintage book but with a modern sensibility as well. Filled with creativity and imagination, the stories Mabel conjures are fascinating and the journeys the two kindred spirits share are marvelous.
The illustrations by O’Hara capture the vivid red hair of Madame Badobedah, the wonders of the hotel, and intrepid Mabel on her many adventures. Real life swirls effectively with the imaginary worlds on the page in both text and illustrations.
An adventure worth taking with two great partners. Appropriate for ages 6-9.
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.
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.
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.
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,