Review: Great Job, Mom! by Holman Wang

Great Job, Mom! by Holman Wang

Great Job, Mom! by Holman Wang (9780735264083)

The co-creator of Cozy Classics returns with a felted family. The three-person family has a mom who almost a hero for her children. As the story progresses, she is given different jobs in the family. She is a carpenter when she repairs things. She’s a general when the troops get marched to bed. She is a doctor when the children are sick. She’s an actor when they pretend together. This charmer of a picture book offers a glimpse of the many roles that mothers play in families, celebrating their myriad skills.

Wang’s text is simple and straight forward. Done in rhymes, they have a jaunty rhythm that makes the book great to share aloud. But the real winner here are the illustrations that life the book to new heights. At the end of the book, the process for creating the felted characters and their scenes is shown, not taking away any of the immense skill that Wang has as an illustrator. The small touches and the lifelike characters are delightful, making each image worth looking at closely.

A celebration of mothers, this picture book is a joy. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo

With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo

With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo (9780062662835)

In her second novel, Acevedo cements her place as a master author for teen readers. Emoni’s life has not been easy, getting pregnant as a freshman in high school was not part of her plan. Now as a senior, her life is filled with work, caring for her daughter, and taking care of her Abuela. There is room too for her love of cooking, but not enough room for big dreams for her future. When a culinary class is offered for the first time at her school, Emoni hesitates to apply even though she longs to. The class includes a trip to Spain, which Emoni knows she will not be able to afford, nor could she leave her daughter or ask that of her grandmother. Still, she signs up for the class. It’s not easy, learning to not improvise in the kitchen but follow the rules and recipes. She can’t add the small touches that make her cooking magic. As Emoni opens herself up to new experiences, her life begins to open in other ways too, allowing herself to find romance and new connections.

In this novel, Acevedo gifts us with a story in prose where you can see her skill as a poet shining through often, taking words and making them dazzling. The fierceness of her first book is still here, with some of the short chapters taking on issues like racism and poverty. The entire work is such an incredible read. Emoni takes up a place in your heart and mind, insisting on being heard and believed.

The portrayal of a young mother who is ferociously caring and loving of her daughter, is something not seem often in our society. Emoni stands as a character speaking for women, a teen caring not only for her daughter but also standing alongside her grandmother as they care for one another. Throughout the book, there is a strong sense of community and extended family that are supportive of Emoni and her dreams.

A stellar and important read, let’s hope this one wins more awards and attention for Acevedo. Appropriate for ages 16-18.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by HarperTeen.

Review: Wild Baby by Cori Doerrfeld

Wild Baby by Cori Doerrfeld

Wild Baby by Cori Doerrfeld (9780062698940)

Just as an orangutan mother and baby wake up and stretch in the treetops, the wild baby rushes off to explore. Sliding and swinging through the jungle, the baby wants to touch and dance and hop, no matter who gets bothered along the way. As they chase through the jungle, the baby ends up being hunted by not just mother but a jaguar while chasing butterflies. Just as the baby is in the utmost danger, everything works out. Now he has to contend with a rather irate mother who carries him back to their nest. Happily, he has a lovely surprise for her when they get there.

For anyone who has cared for a toddler who loves to dash away, this will be a familiar feeling. Doerrfeld creates a madcap race through the jungle done with very simple language sprinkled liberally with the word “wild.” The pacing is exciting and fast and the book is filled with just enough danger and plenty of love. The illustrations are filled with orange fur, playfulness and glee.

A terrific toddler pick. Appropriate for ages 1-3.

Reviewed from library copy.

 

Review: My Mommy Medicine by Edwidge Danticat

My Mommy Medicine by Edwidge Danticat

My Mommy Medicine by Edwidge Danticat, illustrated by Shannon Wright (9781250140913)

When a little girl wakes up sick, she knows that her mother is going to take great care of her with a special brand of Mommy Medicine. There are kisses and hugs, massages and tickles. Then there are special treats like ice cream, tea, hot chocolate or soup. A bubbly bath is another form of medicine and then there are board games to play too. A quiet nap is a moment of quiet and then on to singing songs, silly dances, and playing pretend. Movies watched together and seeing stars before bed end the day spent together.

Danticat uses her own family as inspiration for this picture book using the phrase that her family used, “Mommy Medicine.” The book goes through each type of maternal love that can be shown on a sick day. Each one not only cares for the sick child but also builds the mother-child relationship stronger. Danticat also shares lots of details that bring the book fully to realization with lovely moments captured on each page.

Wright’s illustrations show a mother and daughter who shine with love for one another. They delight in their time together, coming up with ideas to share. Their home and time together is filled with warmth and visible joy, even on a day of illness.

A deep and comforting look at motherly love and how it can heal. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from copy provided by Roaring Brook Press.

Review: Loving Hands by Tony Johnston

loving hands by tony johnston

Loving Hands by Tony Johnston, illustrated by Amy June Bates (9780763679934)

This tender and moving picture book looks at the connection between parent and child from babyhood all the way through adulthood and old age. The book begins with pregnancy and birth, then moves on to the activities of toddlers and childhood like pat-a-cake and skinned knees. The book moves on to baking together, star gazing, and gardening. Full of simple pleasures, the child becomes an adult who visits home now and again. Until he returns to care for his mother and they watch the stars once again together.

First, I must tell you that the mother does not die at the end of the book. So the book stays hopeful and filled with warmth all the way through. The focus on hands is lovely, connecting the two of them through their activities and their loving touches. Johnston’s writing is superb, lifting the book up to something splendid and special. The verse in the book has a repeating rhythm and near rhymes that create beautiful moments on each page.

The artwork by Bates exudes warmth on the page. The characters are lit from within by their connection and love for one another. Each image captures that connection through body language and expressions.

A lovely book for mothers and children alike. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: No Fixed Address by Susin Nielsen

No Fixed Address by Susin Nielsen

No Fixed Address by Susin Nielsen (9780735262751)

Felix loves trivia and his gerbil who is named after a famous Canadian game show host. He lives with his mother Astrid, who struggles to keep jobs and tends to tell lies whenever she wants. Living in Vancouver is expensive, so when Astrid loses her job and then offends the person who takes them in, Felix finds himself living in a camper van. It’s only temporary, so Felix starts school and doesn’t explain to anyone where he is living. Astrid uses her ability to stretch the truth convincingly to get him a place in the school he wants and to get them a mailing address. Still, living in a van is not any fun after awhile and as Felix makes new friends, he finds it hard to keep lying to them. But there is a way out, if Felix can win the junior version of a national game show, he might just have enough money to get them back on their feet and into a home.

Nielsen tells a story about the power of hope, the importance of friendship and the creation of a community of people who care. It is also the story of a mother who is struggling with depression and an inability to keep a job. Astrid is a great character, a mother who manages to continue to be sympathetic but also disastrous. She is complicated just like their story of homelessness is. This is not a flat look at homelessness but instead an in-depth exploration of how it happens, the trap of being in it, and the long climb back out.

Felix too is a wonderful character. He is bright, funny and written as a twelve-year-old boy. That means that his sense of humor is a little naughty and his sense of integrity and honor is strong. His voice resonates as that of a child his age, not reaching up to be a teen yet. The friends he makes are also depicted well, from his old childhood friend with the warm and messy home to the girl he likes, maybe, and her straight-talking hard-hitting journalism approach.

A nuanced and skilled look at homelessness with great characters to discover along the journey. Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from copy provided by Tundra Books.

 

Review: Mama Dug a Little Den by Jennifer Ward

Mama Dug a Little Den by Jennifer Ward

Mama Dug a Little Den by Jennifer Ward, illustrated by Steve Jenkins (9781481480376)

In this companion book to Mama Built a Little Nest, the story explores the many animals who build dens to protect their babies. The book offers rhyming couplets as the main part of the story but each animal also has facts included on the page. These facts include how long the babies stay with their mothers, how the dens function and how the animals are fed while in the den. There are mammals, toads, lizards, spiders and many more on these pages, each with a unique den of their own and interesting reasons for having them.

Ward has selected a broad range of animals to highlight here. Her poems are jaunty and clever, the rhymes never feeling forced. The facts she shares are brief, pertinent and fascinating, just what you need in a picture book format. As always, Jenkins’ art is exceptional. He captures small details and interesting habitats with his cut paper collage that introduces texture to the illustrations as well.

Curl up in your own den to share this with your own baby animal. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy provided by Beach Lane Books.

3 New Picture Books that Embrace Families

Hooked by Tommy Greenwald

Hooked by Tommy Greenwald, illustrated by David McPhail (9781596439962)

A young boy loves to spend his time fishing, but his father doesn’t want to join him in this picture book. Joe loves to fish, but his father just doesn’t understand the appeal and won’t participate. So Joe joins the local fishing club and they fish all over the area in different bodies of water. The in the winter, the club decides to do ice fishing and every kid will need an adult along. Joe is worried that his father will refuse again, but instead he agrees to do it just once. When the two of them get to the frozen lake, nothing much happens at first. Then they start to talk and talk together and suddenly Joe’s father understands.

This is a lovely quiet book, one that celebrates the silence and beauty of fishing and also the way that quiet hobbies can create opportunities for deep connection with others. Children not interested in fishing will still recognize the way that parents sometimes duck out of games and hobbies that they find unappealing. The illustrations are classic McPhail filled with luminous glowing light and a playful sense of storytelling. A great pick for fishing story times or for a quiet evening of stories together. Appropriate for ages 4-6. (Reviewed from library copy.)

How Mamas Love Their Babies by Juniper Fitzgerald

How Mamas Love Their Babies by Juniper Fitzgerald, illustrated by Elise Peterson (9781936932009)

This picture book talks about how different mothers love their children. The text is simple and straightforward but the examples are what makes this book stand out. Mothers use their bodies to care, like breastfeeding their babies. Mothers protest for better worlds for their babies. Some mothers stay home with their children while others work. Some mothers clean houses, others watch other people’s children, others work in government, others work in the fields. Some mothers wear uniforms and some dance for a living. All mothers, no matter what they do for a living, love their children.

The inclusion of mothers who may have to dance for a living is what makes this book so special. That combines with an acceptance of all lifestyles, of all races and religions in the illustrations of the book. The women come in all sizes and colors in the vintage-style collages throughout the book. There is an acceptance of everyone here that is hard to find in children’s books and makes this one for all libraries to own. Appropriate for ages 2-4. (Reviewed from e-galley provided by Edelweiss and Feminist Press.)

On the Other Side of the Garden by Jairo Buitrago

On the Other Side of the Garden by Jairo Buitrago, illustrated by Rafael Yonkteng (9781554989836)

The author and illustrator of Walk with Me and Two White Rabbits return with a picture book that is immediately immersive. A little girl gets dropped off at her grandmother’s house by her father. When she wakes up in the night, there are three animals looking in at her through the window: an owl, a mouse and a frog. They seem friendly, so she opens the window for them. Soon they are inviting her out into the garden, her feet touching grass for the first time in a long time since she lived in the city. As they escape the house, the moon shines white on the page and lights their way. They explore the nearby creek, a hill that lets them look back at the house, and fields. The little girl starts to open up about why she is there at her grandmother’s house, a grandmother she barely knows. She returns back to the house just as the sun comes up, where her grandmother is waiting for her.

There is such beauty in this book. The tone of the text is wistful and wondering, inviting the reader along on the adventure. It is a journey of opening up, of finding new friends who warm you when the wind blows and who surprise and delight you. It is a book of knowing the truth but not being quite ready to face it yet. The illustrations are a play of dark and light. They fill the pages right to the edge, deep blue and full of nature and movement. They are stunningly lovely, unique and emotional. A very special book that is soulful and moving. Appropriate for ages 6-9. (Reviewed from library copy.)

My Little Fox by Rick Chrustowski

My Little Fox by Rick Chrustowski

My Little Fox by Rick Chrustowski (9781481469616, Amazon)

Mama Fox watches closely over her little fox as he heads outside for the first time. When he is scared at first, she reassures him that she will always be nearby. Little Fox discovers the wonder of water in both rain and a pond. Sunny summer days have him frolicking in the flowery meadow. In the fall, he hops into the fallen leaves. Winter snow shows his footprints. As another year begins, it’s time for him to head off on his own. Even then, his mother will be close.

Chrustowski notes in his blurb on the book jacket that he discovered a fox den in Minneapolis one day and returned regularly to try to catch a glimpse of the foxes. Finally seeing one is the inspiration for this picture book. That inspiration shows as a real reverence for these animals is clear. The book is a celebration of maternal love and also of giving youngsters the freedom to explore and discover on their own. Mama Fox doesn’t rescue Little Fox at all, rather being nearby to encourage.

The illustrations in the picture book are done watercolor and pastel pencil. They have a deep richness of color that works well with the wooded setting. Chrustowski has used the illustrations to show different words in his rhymes. The words are made of leaves, mushrooms, the sun and pond weeds. This ties the words directly to the images and adds a playful touch.

A lovely look at maternal love and childhood play. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from copy received from Beach Lane Books.