Review: Little Humans by Brandon Stanton

little humans

Little Humans by Brandon Stanton

The photographer behind Humans of New York brings his talent to a children’s book.  Using photographs taken on the streets of New York, this book speaks to the power of children.  Children may fall down, but they get back up, because they are tough.  But they still need love and friends.  Children are helpful, playful and talented.  They learn and grow.  They also know how to ask for help when they need it.  And they do so very much so well that they just might insist they are are not little after all, they are big!

On each and every page, Stanton celebrates urban culture and diversity.  There are children of every color here, each with their own unique sense of style and and distinct personality that pops on the page.  His photographs speak volumes beyond the text that does little more than support the gorgeous, hip photographs. 

A dynamic and diverse book that can be enjoyed by the smallest of children.  Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: She Is Not Invisible by Marcus Sedgwick

she is not invisible

She Is Not Invisible by Marcus Sedgwick

Released April 22, 2014.

Laureth keeps tabs on her famous father’s emails, making sure that his fans are responded to in a kind and timely way.  But one day, she gets an email from someone claiming to have her father’s writing journal.  The problem is, her father is supposed to be in Europe, but this person is in New York City.  Laureth’s mother doesn’t seem to care about her father being missing, so it is up to Laureth to figure out how to reach him and find out what happened.  But Laureth has an additional obstacle to her rescue mission: she is blind.  So she must fool her 7-year-old brother into joining her on a flight across the Atlantic Ocean to a huge city to find her father.  This is a quest unlike any other, written by a master.

Sedgwick’s writing is beautiful and effortless.  He has created a truly incredible character in Laureth, a girl who doesn’t even realize how brave she is.  Her blindness is both a huge factor in the novel but also never a factor in Laureth’s self perception.  She tries to pass as sighted throughout the novel, managing it at times and failing at others.  There are frightening encounters, moments of disorientation, and other times where blindness is the reason she survives. 

Sedgwick’s book is about far more than a girl who is blind making a quest.  It is about moments of coincidence too.  Sedgwick works this theme in by pulling quotes from Laureth’s father and his research into coincidence.  But it is also a large theme of the book itself, those breathtaking moments where the universe seems to be speaking just to you.  And it is those moments that make the connections we have with others stand out clearly.

A remarkable protagonist in a magical book, this is another winner for Sedgwick.  Appropriate for ages 13-15.

Reviewed from digital copy received from NetGalley and Roaring Brook Press.

Review: Herman and Rosie by Gus Gordon

herman and rosie

Herman and Rosie by Gus Gordon

Herman is a crocodile who lives in New York and finds it very lonely.  He loves playing his oboe in his apartment.  His job selling things on the telephone, makes his life less lonely because he can talk to people, but doesn’t make him very good at his job.  Rosie lives in the building next door to Herman and she loves to sing.  She has a job washing dishes but loves most of all her singing lessons and performing in a little jazz club on Thursday nights.  The two are lonely but fairly happy because both of them hear great music floating into their windows from time to time.  Then one day Herman loses his job and Rosie discovers that the jazz club is closing.  The two of them head home and don’t make any music for a long time.  Until they wake up one morning and things have changed.  They are craving their favorite food and want to make music. 

Gordon has written a picture book ode to big city living, particularly New York.  He incorporates the potential loneliness of urban life but also praises the bustling, the music, the lifestyle.  The characters are quirky and believable.  They are the sort of characters who make perfect sense, whose actions are credible, reactions ring true, and they make the entire book work. 

Gordon writes and illustrates with a playful tone.  His illustrations are done in mixed media, including photographs, paint, and pencil.  The different media are worked together so thoroughly that at times you never notice the photos mixed in.  They are so cleverly done that it all forms one unified piece until something catches your eye.

Two musical souls in one big lonely city where they live next door to one another.  It’s a combination just as exquisite as New York itself.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from Roaring Brook Press.

Review: Laundry Day by Maurie J. Manning

laundry day

Laundry Day by Maurie J. Manning

A young boy tries to sell shoe shines on the streets of New York City in a time before cars, when the streets are crowded with horses and carts.  Suddenly, a red cloth drifts down from above.  The boy looks up to see rows and rows of laundry drying above the street, so he starts to climb with the red cloth around his neck and his small cat following behind.  As he searches for the owner, he meets people from all over the world.  There is the Chinese woman who offers him a mooncake after he helps fold some laundry.  A Ukranian woman with a wailing baby suggests he check with the Italian organ grinder who lives above her.  A family of Polish little girls try to get him involved in their games.  When he finally finds the owner, he has traveled the world in just a few buildings, sharing in treats, hearing a few words of their language.  His high-wire antics add a little spice to the story and a wonderful play off of old films.  This is an old-fashioned treat of a picture book.

Manning adroitly wraps international content in a comfortable package.  The various cultures shown in tiny tastes here are done with a gentle hand and an eye to history.  There is a feeling of merriment throughout this book, with never a fear that the boy will injure himself or that he will find anyone unkind on his adventures.  

The illustrations too have a playful vintage quality about them.  There is a freshness mixed with a timeless feel.  The freshness comes from the cartoonish lines of the art and the comic-like panels used on some pages.  It’s an inventive mix of modern and timeless.

This picture book mixes vintage and new, international and American into one wonderful diverse story.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.