What Do You Know? by Aracelis Girmay and Ariana Fields

What Do You Know? by Aracelis Girmay and Ariana Fields (9781592703210)

Created by two sisters, this picture book is an exploration of our world through a lens of positivity, ability to change and also a timelessness and sense of wonder. The book is a question, “What do you know,” asked by love and answered by people, objects and creatures. Their answers reveal depths and darkness, but also abundance and stars. They reveal the beauty of rain, the footsteps of fire. They include the wisdom of rocks and the wayfinding of bats. They share the insights of seafarers and farmers, each connected to a different part of our world.

Through asking the same question of the world around us, the authors create a book that celebrates the wild diversity of life on earth but also the connection to wonder and mystery around us. The book is simple yet deeply profound, offering hope in darkness, the breath of whales and bears, and the magnificence of change even if it takes millennia. Happily, the writing doesn’t rhyme, instead held together by the question and answer format. The writing is gentle and responsive, allowing each scenario to stand unique but also part of the whole.

The art is bold and simple. It moves from layers of earth in the fields to lava flowing across the land to the immense eye of a whale at sea. It invites us to see the beauty in laundry on an urban line, the marvel of goats on cliffs, and the profound black of a starlit night.

Gorgeous, deep and full of marvels. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from copy provided by Enchanted Lion Books.

If You Were Night by Muon Thi Van

If You Were Night by Muon Thi Van, illustrated by Kelly Pousette (9781525300141)

How would you feel and act if you were night? Would you hide under covers or head outside? When you heard a moth drinking nectar would you hush it or lean in? If something touched your ankle would you freeze or skitter? Would you search for treasures in the garbage with the raccoons? Would you join in the chorus of the frogs at the pond? Would you dive alongside the otters or stitch with the spiders? Would you hunt with the owl? Would you stand still and listen to all the night noises? When dawn arrived would you linger and taste the first morning dew or cuddle back in bed carried by the light? There is so much to love about the night, what would you choose?

Through asking a series of inspired questions, the author shows readers the many delights of the night. Focused on animals and their nighttime activities primarily, the book invites readers to make choices about joining in or witnessing. The options to join in are particularly captivating, allowing the reader to see themselves exploring and living in the night.

The illustrations are done in photographed dioramas that are light with a moon-bright bulb, creating nighttime shadows. The images are a delicate mix of greens and flowerbeds and also greys that truly evoke the moon at night. The dioramas are done in cut paper, creating a detailed nighttime world.

A marvel of a nighttime book that is perfect for bedtime or camping outside. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Kids Can Press.

What Could That Be? by Reza Dalvand

What Could That Be by Reza Dalvand

What Could That Be? by Reza Dalvand (9781338530193)

On a beautiful day, something small lay in the middle of a clearing in the forest. The thing glittered red and green. The leopard believes it is one of her spots that has fallen off and runs off to warn the others. The crow thinks it is part of a star and that the entire sky may be collapsing. The fox and bear thought it might be something that would bring humans into the forest. The owl was certain it was a dragon’s egg. The cat thought it might be poop and covered it up. Throughout the forest confusion rang out, but that was a long time ago. The thing is still there. What could it be?

This picture book is a delightful mix of Chicken Little fears and an unsolvable mystery for the reader. The book is filled with the theories from different creatures in the woods, almost all of them leading to a sense of panic, even though they really don’t know what the object is. Readers will expect to have the question solved by the end of the story, but this Swiss import has a more European twist. It leaves the question still open, ready for readers to fill in the blank.

The illustrations are done in oil and crayons. They depict a rainbow-colored forest filled with animals of many colors, some of them just as bright and varied as the trees themselves. The bright colors add to the imaginative feel of the tale, tying it nicely to folklore.

One enigma offers plenty of solutions, do you have one? Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Scholastic.

Review: I Wonder by K. A. Holt

I Wonder by K. A. Holt

I Wonder by K. A. Holt, illustrated by Kenard Pak (9781524714222)

From waking up to finally going to bed, the day is filled with questions. There are questions about whether the sun is really a kite. Do tires get tired? What are boy ladybugs called? Where are the unicorns? Could your belly button hold a galaxy? How do shadows work? Are toys lonely or sad? Do trees dream? One after another the questions are asked and left unanswered for the reader to think about and ponder. The book ends with children being reminded that they wonder because they are wonderful.

Holt’s text is a series of marvelous questions that really get readers thinking about wild possibilities in the world. If you are sharing this book aloud, expect conversations about the questions, some of which could lead to great discussions about fascinating topics. It is also a great book to read and quietly think deep thoughts on your own too. Pak’s illustrations are filled with a diverse cast of characters. The images are ethereal. They are also beautifully structured with curves of road, bubbles in water, and the night sky all featured in the course of the book.

A book to marvel at and wonder with. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Random House. 

Review: Why? by Laura Vaccaro Seeger

Why by Laura Vaccaro Seeger

Why? by Laura Vaccaro Seeger (9780823441730)

A little white rabbit is full of questions for a bear who valiantly tries to answer them all. After each “why?” comes a wise answer about wind, gravity, honey, stars, plants and much more. Finally though, the bear has had enough and heads off home. The little rabbit asks him not to go and now it is Bear’s turn to ask “why” of the rabbit. Rabbit rises to the question and answers it with the same wisdom and patience that Bear has shown all along.

Seeger takes the questions of a toddler and turns it into an engaging picture book. Parents and children alike will recognize the endless questions and the patience it takes to answer them. The turn around at the end of the book adds exactly the right ending to the story. Throughout the book has a pitch perfect tone that makes rabbit’s questions interesting rather than bothersome.

Seeger’s art is lush and lovely. One can almost sink into her greens and blues, they are so deeply colored. She manages to create a friendship from two animals without anthropomorphizing them along the way.

Simple and just right for toddlers and their questions. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from copy provided by Holiday House.

Review: Where Do We Go When We Disappear? by Isabel Minhos Martins

where do we go when we disappear

Where Do We Go When We Disappear? by Isabel Minhos Martins and Madalena Matoso

I recently reviewed My Neighbor Is a Dog, another new book by this author and illustrator duo.  In this book, the question of where people and things go when they disappear is explored thoroughly.  The result is a book that asks big questions and attempts to answer them or at least provide a framework to answer them.  The book begins with people disappearing and the idea that you must be missed in order to disappear, so disappearing takes two.  Then it moves on to other things that disappear like sunshine and clouds, socks and puddles, snow and noise.  It ends with the fact that everything disappears, even the most solid things like rocks over time will disappear. 

Translated from the Portuguese original, this book is thought provoking and fascinating.  Martins manages to right a book about big questions that answers them in a way that is exploratory and insightful and doesn’t turn quickly to a religious answer.  Instead she stays in the questioning place, allowing different ideas to surface and be discussed.  She does not provide any easy answers, meeting children right where they want the discussion to stay, where it leads to more and more questions.

Matoso’s illustrations are vibrantly colored and filled with strong shapes.  They appear to be block printed which adds to the organic feel.  She uses negative space brilliantly.  One example is her snow image with the background white and the flakes cut out circles that merge directly into the white and stand out against the other bright objects.

Challenging, thought-provoking and a book that will inspire discussion and help children find their own answers.  Appropriate for ages 5-7.

Reviewed from library copy.