Bunches of Board Books

Car, Car, Truck, Jeep by Katrina Charman

Car, Car, Truck, Jeep by Katrina Charman, illustrated by Nick Sharratt (9781681198958)

Sung to the tune of “Baa, Baa, Black Sheep” this board book will quickly become a favorite for any little one who loves vehicles. The book is filled with all sorts of cars, trucks, boats, and planes. Each one carries a rhyme with it and creates all sorts of motion on the page. The illustrations are bright and friendly, inviting the littlest readers to explore their thick lines and bold shapes. This is one beeping good board book.

Reviewed from copy provided by Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

A Pile of Leaves by Jason Fulford and Tamara Shopsin

A Pile of Leaves by Jason Fulford and Tamara Shopsin (9780714877204)

Just right for fall reading either one-on-one or with a small group, this board book offers a unique experience. With only a preface containing words, the book opens to reveal see-through pages that form a leaf pile. Readers turn the pages, removing one layer of leaves at a time and discovering interesting things hiding in the leaves. There is a worm, ants, a mitten, a key, a grasshopper and more. Beautifully, the leaves continue to pile on the pages to the left, creating a new pile to explore. Clever and a delight to explore, this board book is like breathing crisp fall air in book form.

Reviewed from library copy.

You and Me by Rebecca Kai Dotlich

You and Me by Rebecca Kai Dotlich, illustrated by Susan Reagan (9781568463216)

This exceptional board book tells the story of an older sibling with a very adorable new baby in the house. Sharing time with Grandma isn’t easy,  but the older sibling is patient. The baby has lots of cute things that they can do, but so does the older sibling. In the end, the baby finally goes down for a nap and it’s time for the older child to be paid a lot of attention. The poem in this board book is gentle with rhymes that sway. The illustrations are truly amazing, filled with eyes alight with joy and both siblings wonderfully androgynous as well. These are images of a loving African-American family that celebrate being an older sibling.

Reviewed from library copy.


3 Fun Fall Picture Books

The Bad Seed by Jory John

The Bad Seed by Jory John, illustrated by Pete Oswald (9780062467768)

He is a very bad seed. He cuts in line, tells pointless lies, never washes his hands (or his feet), and is late to everything. He wasn’t always that way. Once he was happy with his family of seeds on top of a sunflower. But when the flower drooped, he was gathered and put into a bag of seeds. Darkness fell until he was almost eaten by a giant! After that, he was a bad seed. Everyone knew it. But what happens when a bad seed doesn’t want to be bad anymore? Can he become a good seed? This picture book looks at the power of choice and transformation. An interesting read aloud for gardening story times or autumn units. Appropriate for ages 3-5. (Review copy provided by HarperCollins.)

Full of Fall by April Pulley Sayre

Full of Fall by April Pulley Sayre (9781481479844)

With vibrant photographs, this picture book celebrates the beauty and colors of autumn. Told in rhyme, the book focuses on the changing leaves. Different colors are shown clearly in the images, making this a great book to explore for colors too. The leaves go from bright colors on the trees, to falling down, to heaps on the ground and sinking into the water too. Finally, there is snow. This is a great addition to Sayre’s body of work on nature. It is simple enough to use with very young preschoolers and even toddlers all of whom will enjoy the vivid clarity of the photographs. Appropriate for ages 2-4. (Reviewed from library copy.)

Wee Sister Strange by Holly Grant

Wee Sister Strange by Holly Grant, illustrated by K. G. Campbell

Wee Sister Strange is a girl who lives by herself by the woods in an old house. She spends time in the woods when others won’t be there. She enjoys the moon and the dark. She talks to the owls and buries the bones from their meals. She rides on the back of a ferocious bear. She climbs trees as wolves prowl below. She dives deep into the water of the bog looking at snail shells. Then a bright window beckons her closer. There is the reader, snug in bed reading this book! And Wee Sister Strange stays there, right outside, listening to the story and snuggling down in her own bed outside.

The poetry of this book immediately tells readers that they are in an odd world, one where a child merrily lives on her own. Wee Sister Strange is a beautiful and wild child; the language in the poem makes sure that children will see her as a welcome and safe part of the woods. Still, the bear is fierce and the wolves are about, so this is a wild woods, one where other may fear to explore. The bog is like that as well, cleverly not described as a lake and with the slime emphasized for good measure too. The art by Campbell is glowing and rich. The leaves on the trees are just about almost fallen entirely with a few stubborn yellow leaves lighting the branches like lanterns. The moon is full and throws shadows. The animals are strong and fanged. It’s a book with shivers and wonder galore. Appropriate for ages 4-6. (Reviewed from e-galley received from Edelweiss and Schwartz & Wade.)

The Gold Leaf by Kirsten Hall

The Gold Leaf by Kirsten Hall

The Gold Leaf by Kirsten Hall, illustrated by Matthew Forsythe (9781592702145, Amazon)

Spring has returned to the forest, filling the woods with all colors of green. In the midst of the new growth, something special sparkled. It was a gold leaf, unique and different. All of the animals wanted to have it. A bird got it first, planning to use it to line its nest. Soon though, other animals grab it and take it for themselves until finally it lays in tatters on the ground and then is swept away by the wind. The animals are so dismayed at what they have done. The seasons change and fall and winter arrive and go. It is spring once again, green and lush. Will the gold leaf return?

Hall dazzles with her prose, offering so many colors of green in a single sentence that it is almost like being in a woods and noting each color. She uses very dynamic pacing in this picture book from the frenzy over the gold leaf itself as it is torn apart to the sadness afterwards and the slow turn of the seasons. That slow consideration continues as the animals wait to see if the gold leaf will ever return to them.

The illustrations take Hall’s considerable list of green colors and convey them to the page. The images are lush and filled with rich colors that have dapples of sunlight, deep shadows and animals that glow against the background. The use of goldleaf for leaf itself is very effectively done, particularly as it is ripped apart and each little piece continues to brighten the page.

A book about wonder, patience and sharing, this picture book is particularly golden. Appropriate for ages 3-6.

Reviewed from copy received from Enchanted Lion.



Yellow Time by Lauren Stringer


Yellow Time by Lauren Stringer (InfoSoup)

The geese are flying south, the squirrels are busy and the crows are the only birds left in the trees. The air smells different and everyone knows that the trees must drop their leaves soon. Then the wind comes and the air fills with yellow leaves. Children run outside and play in the swirling yellow breezes. When the leaves have fallen, the yellow is in piles on the ground, covering everything. Children gather the leaves to press in books to remember the special time just before winter comes with its whiteness.

Stringer shares the drama of autumn in this picture book. She uses phrases like “a symphony of yellow” to capture the wonder of what is happening, mixing senses of sound and color together. When she describes the smell of autumn just before the leaves fall, she uses comparisons that children will understand: “Like wet mud and dry grass with a sprinkle of sugar.” It offers up the richness and deepness of the smell, the intangible dryness that is part of it and the sweetness as well. She skillfully creates autumn on the page with her words.

The illustrations celebrate the diversity of a small neighborhood filled with yellow trees and the children who wait for the falling leaves to start. There is a gorgeous overload of yellow on the pages, bright and cheerful, filled with motion and tumbling breezes and leaves. The pages are just as fresh and vibrant as the season she is depicting.

A joyous book that welcomes autumn with open arms. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Beach Lane Books.

Review: The Conductor by Laetitia Devernay


The Conductor by Laetitia Devernay

This wordless picture book is tall and narrow, just like the trees featured within.  A man enters a forest of trees that are shaped like lollipops with long trunks and round tops.  He climbs to the very top of one tree and raises his hands.  Suddenly, birds start to appear, formed from the leaves of the trees.  They fly off leaving holes in the tree leaves shaped like them.  The leaf patterns are on their wings and they fly above the conductor in a variety of formations.  Until eventually they are gone, and all that are left are the blank trees.  The man climbs down and plants a seed that quickly grows into a tree.  As he is planting, the birds return to the trees, covering them once again in leaves.  The man leaves the forest just as he has found it, but with one more small trees.  It’s a beautiful look at the environment and the impact humans can have if they choose.

The art here is wonderfully done.  It has a limited palette of just yellow, green, black and white.  The juxtaposition of tree leaves and flying birds is spectacular visually and surprising at first.  It lifts the book to a more surreal place, a world where you are unsure what could possibly happen next.  The fine lined art, the scale of the book and the gentle theme all work well together, creating a memorable whole.

A surprising wordless picture book that is a work of art, this book would work well in art curriculum or as a quiet, beautiful book to share.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Chronicle Books.

Review: A Leaf Can Be… by Laura Purdie Salas


A Leaf Can Be… by Laura Purdie Salas, illustrated by Violeta Dabija

Explore leaves throughout the seasons in this work of poetry.  The book focuses less on the science of leaves and much more on their impact, their dance on the wind, the shade they spill, and the color they give.  Told in verse that will work very well with young children, this book captures the wonder of nature.  

This is a dance of a book with rhymes and rhythms that really sparkle.  Much of the book is done in two-word lines that encapsulate one aspect of leaves, “sun taker” and “food maker,” and then in the autumn, “pile grower” and “hill glow-er.” 

Dabija’s art is jewel-toned and dynamic.  Her work is infused with merriment and joy.  She uses layers and transparency to great effect, capturing the beauty of nature.  One particularly striking page is her “frost catcher” where the layers of her work shine and the details are luminous. 

A great book to use in a unit about trees, this is also a book that invites exploring a poem.  Exquisite writing is well matched with rich art in this book.  Appropriate for ages 3-6.

Reviewed from library copy.

Big Wolf & Little Wolf: The Little Leaf that Wouldn’t Fall

Big Wolf & Little Wolf: The Little Leaf that Wouldn’t Fall by Nadine Brun-Cosme, illustrated by Olivier Tallec

Released December 2009.

This sequel to the lovely Big Wolf & Little Wolf continues the story of their friendship.  Little Wolf spots a special leaf in the spring and wants Big Wolf to climb up their tree and bring it down.  Big Wolf tells him to wait, that it will fall.  Little Wolf asks again in the summer and autumn, as the leaf turns into a deep green and then a soft brown.  When winter arrives, the leaf is still up in the tree, now a black color.  Then one day, Big Wolf decides to climb the tree and bring down the leaf for Little Wolf.  After a harrowing climb, Big Wolf reaches the leaf and it crumbles to pieces.  Beautiful pieces.

Brun-Cosme’s prose is lovely, spare and yet manages to be dynamic too.  She evokes the seasons, colors and wonder of each time of year without becoming maudlin at all.  There is the drama of Big Wolf’s climb and the unexpected resolution of the story that is surprising but fitting.  The first book was about the awkwardness of new friendship.  This second book is about a deepening connection and the beauty of togetherness. 

Tallec’s illustrations are less colorful this time, sticking to a more natural palette of colors.  But they still have an expansive feel, a clear sense of space, and they play with perspective.  They are simple but dynamic, just like the text.  A lovely combination.

Highly recommended, this series has its own unique feel and style.  These are quiet books, filled with natural beauty and deep connections.  Appropriate for ages 4-7.

Full disclosure:  My review of the first book is blurbed on the jacket of this second.  A great surprise to discover!

Reviewed from copy received from publisher.