‘Ohana Means Family by Ilima Loomis, illustrated by Kenard Pak (9780823443260)
Written in the cumulative story style of The House That Jack Built, this picture book explores the tradition of a Hawaiian luau. The book begins with the kalo (or taro root) that is used to make poi. The kalo comes from the mud, with clear and cold water that covers it. It is picked by hands that are wise and old which have worked the land for generations. Sun and rain help the kalo grow. Wind carries the stories that the family tells until they gather together at the luau.
Loomis’ text is marvelous, moving readers backwards through how kalo is grown and the importance of it being land that has never been sold. The connection to weather and this land is evident throughout the text and then repeats over and over again as the cumulative format continues. The story then loops back around to the luau itself and a focus on family.
The art in the book is done with watercolor, gouache, and digital art. It depicts Hawaiians with many different skin tones, all part of the same family and working together. The landscapes are remarkable, whether bright green in sunshine or hazy in rain.
A celebration of traditions and family. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from ARC provided by Holiday House.
What Will These Hands Make? By Nikki McClure (9781419725760)
A grandmother’s special birthday party brings together an entire community in this picture book. Celebrating what can be done with one’s hands and created for another person, this book looks at the power of using hands for kindness and creativity. An old sweater is made into a fish-shaped pillow, hands make the six-tier birthday cake, a blanket is woven, a wooden box whittled, bread is baked, and children are cared for. The party is prepared for by the family and community, the event is held, and the book closes with the quiet afterwards.
McClure excels in all of her books in making small moments meaningful and impactful. Here, she does exactly that with making things with one’s hands. In her note at the end, she points out that the art for her books is done entirely by hand by cutting paper with an exacto knife. Her poetic text invites readers to think about all the ways they can use their hands to create something too. Her art is as lovely as always, remarkable in that it is cut paper creating the faces of characters and their world. She uses selective colors to create special moments like the grandmother’s white hair, the red sweater, and the deep browns of wood. The entire book is done on darker paper that evokes brown paper bags and wholegrain bread.
Another delight of a book from a master artist. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from copy provided by Abrams Books for Young Readers.
The Piñata That the Farm Maiden Hung by Samantha R. Vamos, illustrated by Sebastia Serra (9781580897969)
This is a companion book to the award-winning The Cazuela That the Farm Maiden Stirred. This second book is by the same author but a different illustrator. Here a girl sets off to do some errands while the rest of the farm gets ready for a celebration. The farm maiden creates a piñata by hand with the help of a boy, horse, goose, cat and sheep. The farmer carves figures from wood and everyone prepares for a party. Told in a cumulative folktale style, the book uses Spanish words and phrases to create a book that sings with festivities.
The writing by Vamos is skilled as she weaves together English and Spanish into rhymes and a repeating and cumulative structure. Children who don’t know Spanish will easily be able to decode the words in the text since Vamos replaces the English word on a previous page with the Spanish word. The book also includes a glossary of Spanish words as well as directions for making your own piñata. The illustrations by Serra are colorful and bright. They are filled with the action of making the piñata and every animal and person is happy while doing their work. There is a sense of anticipation throughout the book as the celebration nears.
A great bilingual choice for Spanish-language learners. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from copy provided by Charlesbridge.
Red by Jed Alexander (9781944903114)
A wordless riff on the traditional Little Red Riding Hood tale, this picture book offers an initial title page that will show immediately that it’s a different sort of story. With a huge wolf holding wrapping paper in his mouth and Grandma waiting for him arrive, the tale then moves to a very little Red Riding Hood being stopped by the large wolf on her way in the woods. Other animals appear with presents, ribbons and even a cake. The wolf delays Red until the other animals and Grandma are ready and they surprise her with a birthday party! The day ends with Red riding off on the wolf merrily.
The illustrations use pops of red and pink to show the elements of the party and Red’s cloak. Otherwise they are filled with black and white ink drawings featuring a grinning rather devious wolf, rabbits and badgers, and one determined little girl.
A winning new take on a traditional story. Appropriate for ages 2-5.
Reviewed from copy provided by Cameron Kids.
Thank You and Good Night by Patrick McDonnell (InfoSoup)
Clement, Jean and Alan Alexander were having a pajama party at Clement’s house. The three bounce on the bed together, do the chicken dance, and have a funny-face contest. They played hide-and-seek, had a snack and watched the stars. They all started to get sleepy, so they got ready for bed but still had enough energy to listen to a bedtime story. They ended their party with a list of the things they were thankful for, a very long list.
McDonnell channels the energy and feel of every great classic bedtime read in this new book. He lets us in on the fun of a sleepover, focusing on all of the small things that make for a wonderful night with friends. His recap of the day with gratitude is something that many families can incorporate into their days, whether they are having a pajama party or not. It again returned the focus to those simple joys of life and time spent with one another.
The art has a gorgeous dreamy quality to it at times and other times has a zesty playfulness. The pleasure of the small animals playing with one another and not being sleepy at all transitions beautifully to sleepy creatures headed for bed. The final scene where they are revealed to be stuffed animals belonging to a little girl is particularly lovely.
A gentle bedtime story filled with lots of play and then bedtime for everyone. Yawn! Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from library copy.
Edmond, The Moonlit Party by Astrid Desbordes, illustrated by Marc Boutavant (InfoSoup)
Edmond, the squirrel, lives in a chestnut tree and hardly ever goes out. He spends his time making nut jam, reading stories, and making pompoms. George Owl lives in the tree above Edmond. He spends his time out and about, gathering items to create his amazing costumes. Harry, the bear, lives in the bottom part of the same chestnut tree. He loves to throw parties and was just planning his upcoming one. It would have a nothing tart, very mysterious, and would encourage people to wear costumes. Edmond longed to go to a party in the tree, but never had. So when George smells Edmond’s latest batch of nut jam as the party gets started, George encourages him to attend even if he doesn’t have a costume to wear. Soon Edmond is at the party, dancing and having a great time and he decides that parties suit him just fine after all.
This French import is a radiant read. The three different residents of the tree all have distinct personalities. Edmond is lonely and looking for connections, George enjoys disguises and Harry is rather distracted in the midst of his party planning. It all turns out for the best as the three neighbors get to know one another, or at least Harry and Edmond to, since George is dressed in a very realistic seagull costume. The text here is lush and gives insight into each character, making the book more appropriate for older preschoolers and children already starting school.
Boutavant’s illustrations have a seventies vibe. Done in the flat bright colors of that time, the illustrations have lots of details to explore and offer real glimpses into the lives of the three denizens of the tree. The bright colors vibrate on the page, brilliant blues, reds and yellows are used as background colors and add a lot of energy to the story.
An exploration of neighbors and being yourself, this picture book is cheery and vibrant. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from copy received from Enchanted Lion Books.
The Tea Party in the Woods by Akiko Miyakoshi
Released August 1, 2015.
Snow has fallen and Kikko wants to help her father clear her grandmother’s walk. He has already left but forgot to take the pie for her grandmother, so Kikko follows his footprints through the snow. She can see him ahead of her when she falls and crushes the pie. Still, she picks it all back up and continues on her way. But her father is heading into a huge building that Kikko has never seen before. As she approaches, she looks in the window and sees that the man she has been following is actually a bear in a coat. A little lamb comes up to her and asks her inside to join the tea party. Kikko is the only human there in a room filled with forest creatures. She quickly is welcomed to their tea party and spends a splendid time with them. When the time comes to continue on her way to her grandmother’s house, the animals replace the crushed pie with one made from different pieces of their own pies. Kikko is soon at her grandmother’s house where they are clearly delighted with the unusual pie.
Miyakoshi has created a story that is pure magic. She takes the traditional Little Riding Hood story of a girl heading through the woods to her grandmother’s house and turns it upside down in a most pleasant and unusual way. Once readers see that she is with wild animals, they will expect the story to take a darker turn. Instead they will discover a book that gets ever friendlier and more welcoming, a book filled with the warmth of new-found friends.
The illustrations are done with touches of color brightening the charcoal and pencil illustrations. Kikko is set apart immediately with her bright yellow hair and red hat and mittens. She is a burst of color against the white and the darkness. The illustrations of the animals are particularly effective. They are realistic and yet the animals are dressed in human attire, making it a lovely and whimsical book.
Gentle and friendly, this twist on Little Red Riding Hood is enchanting. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from copy received from Kids Can Press.
Bulldozer’s Big Day by Candace Fleming, illustrated by Eric Rohmann (InfoSoup)
Bulldozer is very excited as he heads to the construction site one morning. It’s his special day and he wants to invite all of the other bigger trucks to his party. So he asks them to guess what day it is. Digger says that the day is a scooping day and keeps on scooping dirt. Dump Truck says it’s a sifting day. Cement Mixer knows that it’s a stirring day. One after another, the different trucks insist that it’s just a normal day and they are doing what they always do. Bulldozer gets more and more dejected as the other trucks talk to him and is about to leave the construction site entirely when happy whistles start to blow and the trucks reveal their birthday surprise for him.
Fleming charmingly combines two deep loves of small children: trucks and birthdays. She engages just enough with each of the trucks, allowing young vehicle lovers time to enjoy each truck and what they do on a construction site. Children will feel for Bulldozer as his attempts to talk about his party are foiled by each truck. The pacing is well done and leads up to a greatly satisfying ending.
Rohmann’s thick-lined illustrations work particularly well here. His Bulldozer character reads as young and jaunty as he flies over the construction area without touching the ground. The other trucks are solid and dependable. They come off as very friendly but also busy, rather like parents who are distracted but kind. Rohmann presents the birthday reveal on one double page spread that is very joyful and lots of fun. Expect a cheer of joy from your listening audience.
Get this into the hands of toddlers who like trucks and who may be approaching a birthday of their own. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from copy received from Atheneum Books for Young Readers.
What If…? by Anthony Browne
Joe is headed to a birthday party and its the first one that he’s ever gone to. He’s very nervous about what is going to happen at Tom’s party and whether he will enjoy it or not. Joe’s mother walks him to Tom’s house. They know what street it is on but not the house number, since Joe lost the invitation. So along the way they peek into windows to see which is the correct house. But the things they see in the windows don’t help Joe feel better at all. There are old people with a staring dog. There’s an elephant. And then there are a couple of houses where the people are being very strange indeed. By the time they find Tom’s house, Joe and his mother are both worried. Will the party be fun?
This is a book that is permeated by Browne’s signature style. I love the idea of finding a party by peeking into windows. Even better, Browne takes it as an opportunity to create wild flights of fancy in each window, each of which is unique and strange. Most of the text of the book is the discussion between Joe and his mother as they walk down the street, with her trying to persuade him that he will have fun at the party.
Browne’s art really tells a lot of the story on the page. The discussions between Joe and his mother are shown in panels with speech bubbles. They are shown in only blues while what they see in the windows are done in full color. This makes the different windows pop on the page, in stark contrast to the limited palette of the main characters. By the end of the book though, Joe and his mother are full color once the party is over.
Another wondrous book by Browne, this is perfect for getting children worried about new experiences to be creative and even a bit wild about how they think about them. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from library copy.