3 New Picture Books Where Imaginations Soar

Blue Rider by Geraldo Valerio

Blue Rider by Geraldo Valerio (9781554989812)

This wordless picture book tells the story of a little girl who discovers a blue book on the ground. She lives in a bustling gray city filled with people moving in all directions. Taking the book home, she reads it and the blue horse on the pages inspires her. Soon the blue horse is flying above the city and then moving to the countryside where the art becomes more geometric and even more colorful. Out of that burst of color, the girl emerges riding the blue horse. Then we are back in her bedroom where her dreams and her room are filled with color.

Valerio tells the story of how art can inspire and create wonder and a space to dream. The illustrations are done in mixed media, combining paintings with paper collage. The edges become more frayed as the art from the book takes over the page. The movement to a more abstract type of illustration is particularly effective, bursting across the page. A great picture book to share with art classes who will be inspired themselves. Appropriate for ages 4-7. (Reviewed from library copy.)

The Stone Bird by Jenny McCartney

The Stone Bird by Jenny McCartney, illustrated by Patrick Benson (9781541514553)

Eliza finds a stone shaped just like an egg on the beach one day. She keeps it, even though her mother says it’s not an egg. She sleeps with it under her pillow and then places it on her nightstand, until one day it transforms into a little gray bird made of stone. Eliza takes the stone bird with her everywhere. Then one morning there is a little stone egg next to the bird when she wakes up. Eliza makes a nest out of a pair of socks because winter has arrived. When spring comes again, there are two stone birds in the nest. Then one summer morning, the birds are gone. Eliza misses them dreadfully until her birthday morning when she sees two gray birds on the roof outside her window.

A story of transformation and belief in magic, this picture book is a gentle tale. Eliza is shown mostly alone or with her family and the focus is on her relationship with the stone egg and stone birds. That narrowed focus serves the story well, allowing it to be about seasons passing and the way that birds would act. The illustrations are soft and show the changing seasons with clarity. They have an intimate feel, particularly when it is Eliza and her rocks. A quiet book that asks you to let your imagination soar with Eliza’s. Appropriate for ages 3-5. (Reviewed from copy provided by Andersen Press.)

Groundwood Logos Spine

They Say Blue by Jillian Tamaki (9781419728518)

This rich picture book looks at colors and inspires children to look deeper at what the colors inspire. While the sky is blue, so is water, until you hold it in your hand and it is clear and sparkles like diamonds when tossed in the air. There are hidden bright colors like the gold of an egg yolk and the red of blood in our bodies. Golden waves of the field look like they could be sailed on with a boat. Until the gray clouds come. Seasons bring their own colors. Black is the color of hair and also the crows outside the window who fly off into the colorful sky.

This is one of those books that you can read over and over again, different words and illustrations touching you each time. For a picture book for very young children, it has an unexpected depth, inviting children to see in a new way as they experience their days. The playfulness of color and imagination delight. The illustrations are exceptional, created with acrylic paint and PhotoShop. Rich and filled with color and sweeping lines, they carry the reader away into dreams of seasons, weather and wonder. A great picture book. Appropriate for ages 3-5. (Reviewed from library copy.)

3 New Picture Books Brimming with Self Esteem

I Can Be Anything! Don_t Tell Me I Can_t by Diane Dillon

I Can Be Anything! Don’t Tell Me I Can’t by Diane Dillon (9781338166903)

Zoe says that she can be anything she wants to be, like a bird flying up high. But she also has a little voice that asks what happens if she falls. Time and again, Zoe states her dream and why it will work but the little voice is still there asking nagging questions and inserting doubt. Zoe dreams of being a scientist or a veterinarian or a musician or President. Still, that voice comments on each of those dreams. Each time though, Zoe responds or ignores the voice until it can’t answer anymore. This picture book shows how to push through personal doubts and follow your dreams, whatever they may be.

This is Dillon’s first solo picture book since the death of her husband. The insidious little voice that we all have is nicely drawn here, so that everyone can relate to the messages it gives. Zoe’s inherent enthusiasm and pride in herself are not cut down even though she has doubts. The focus on learning, science, arts and reading is strong in this book. Dillon’s illustrations are beautifully done, featuring Zoe and her dreams becoming reality on each page. A winning look at resilience and empowerment, this picture book is inspiring. Appropriate for ages 4-6. (Reviewed from copy provided by Blue Sky Press.)

Natsumi by Susan Lendroth

Natsumi! by Susan Lendroth, illustrated by Priscilla Burris (9780399170904)

Natsumi is a little girl with lots of exuberance in everything she does. She moves fast, plays hard and makes a lot of noise. When her family starts to prepare for a festival featuring traditional Japanese arts, Natsumi struggles to figure out where she fits in. She moves too fast for flower arranging. She stirs the tea too hard in the tea ceremony. She is too loud for the dance routine. Her grandfather though has an idea of where she might fit right in, but it’s a secret until the festival.

This fast-paced picture book suits its subject just right. Filled with noise and action, the story shows a dynamic little girl who just can’t slow down, be quiet or be gentle. The repetition of those elements strengthens the structure of the book. The solution the grandfather comes up with is just right and offers a real way that Natsumi can be herself and still participate. The illustrations are just as bright and vivid as Natsumi herself, filled with color, movement and smiles. A book that celebrates individuality. Appropriate for ages 3-5. (Reviewed from copy provided by Penguin Random House.)

Petra by Marianna Coppo

Petra by Marianna Coppo (9780735262676)

Petra is an enormous boulder, one that is unmovable, visited by others, a magnificent mountain that has been there since ancient times. Or is she? When a dog comes along, the perspective changes and suddenly Petra is much more of a pebble size. Petra thinks that maybe she isn’t even a rock at all, perhaps she is an egg instead! What could she hatch into? When she is tossed into a pool of water, Petra again dreams of how very large she is as an island. But once again is picked up and taken away, this time by a girl who paints Petra. Who knows what she may become tomorrow!

Coppo’s book is a skilled look at perspective in two ways. First in the changing perspective as Petra seems large and then small, larger and then smaller again. Second in Petra’s own shifting perspective about who and what she is and could be. It’s an adroit combination of themes that support one another very successfully and is vastly appealing. The art style adds to that appeal with Petra’s expressions changing as her perspective shifts. The art is simple, focusing primarily on Petra herself in all of her imaginative glory. Rock on! Appropriate for ages 3-5. (Reviewed from library copy.)

Mine! by Jeff Mack

Mine! by Jeff Mack

Mine! by Jeff Mack (9781452152349, Amazon)

Two mice discover a large rock that they both want to own. What ensues is a one-word argument back and forth between them and an ever-escalating battle of dominance. The mice use cheese to tempt each other along with wrapped gifts. Other rocks also play a role and pile around the bigger rock. There are walls of rock, knocked down by a wrecking ball. Finally, the two mice are together on the rock, arguing with one another. That’s when the ending takes a great twist.

Mack has a delightful sense of humor and timing in this picture book. The writing could not be simpler, with only one word being used in the entire book. The illustrations work particularly well with their limited palette and bright colors. They have the feel of the vintage Spy vs. Spy, with the two mice in their distinct colors battling one another. There are sneaky attacks and all out blasts. It’s a wild look at the hazards of not sharing.

Great for toddlers learning about sharing, reading this aloud will have you shouting “Mine!” in all sorts of tones. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from copy received from Chronicle Books.

Bring Me a Rock by Daniel Miyares

Bring Me a Rock by Daniel Miyares

Bring Me a Rock by Daniel Miyares (InfoSoup)

A demanding grasshopper wearing a crown insists that the other insects bring him a rock! Big rocks to build his pedestal so that it is suitable for a king. So the insects bring back rocks and the king accepts most of them with little grace. One though, carried by the smallest insect is not worthy of being part of his pedestal and is rejected along with the little bug who brought it. Now the grasshopper king has created a pedestal to sit high upon with all of the rocks piled one upon another. But it is not balanced and begins to tip. Luckily though, the small pebble that the little bug brought is just right to save the day.

Miyares has written this picture book entirely in dialogue and almost all of it in the imperious and demanding voice of the grasshopper. That makes for a great read aloud where storytellers can get into the character and exaggerate it for comic effect. Then the little bug also speaks and in the end equalizes the roles of all of the insects alongside the king. The end is a welcome twist where the kind is on his pedestal but so are all of the other bugs too.

The illustrations are done in watercolor and digital resulting in a book that is filled with light and lush greens. The grasshopper and the other insects are colorful against the yellow sky and greenery and the critical pebble glows white on the page, immediately showing its importance even before it is used.

Read this one aloud with plenty of energy and dynamics and it will add plenty of zing to any summer story time. Appropriate for ages 2-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.

 

Review: Fossil by Bill Thomson

fossil

Fossil by Bill Thomson

Thomson, author of Chalk, returns with a book that once again mixes fantasy with photorealistic art.  In this picture book, a boy is walking along the water with his dog.  He finds an interesting rock but then trips and the rock goes flying and breaks open revealing a fossil inside.  As he picks it up and discovers the fossilized fern inside the rock, ferns start to grow around him.  His dog digs up another rock and when the boy breaks that one open, a huge dragonfly comes to life.  The dragonfly lands on another rock and readers will see the claws on the fossil before the shadow appears.  With his dog in danger, the boy has to think fast about how to save him. 

Done in a wordless format, Thomson’s art is the real draw here.  His photorealism makes for images that are worth lingering over.  He also uses unique perspectives throughout the book, such as the image on the cover.  The books has the universal appeal of a sandy shore littered with large stones and drenching sunlight.  That same sunlight somehow becomes threatening once the dinosaur appears, almost spotlighting the danger and creating deep menacing shadows.

Vivid and beautiful, this book offers a dynamic take on fossils and prehistoric life.  Appropriate for ages 3-6.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: A Rock Is Lively by Dianna Hutts Aston

rock is lively

A Rock Is Lively by Dianna Hutts Aston, illustrated by Sylvia Long

Another stellar collaboration by the team that created An Egg Is Quiet, A Seed Is Sleepy, and A Butterfly Is Patient, this nonfiction picture book focuses on rocks and minerals.  The book begins with rock melted as magma beneath the earth.  It talks about what makes up rocks and how old they are, as well as the rocks that we find in space.  Rocks as tools and weapons are explored, mixed in with the amazing rock interiors that surprise and delight. The different types of rocks finish off the factual piece of the book, but the bright and beautiful illustrations continue all the way to the final lapis lazuli endpages. 

Aston manages to write nonfiction as if each sentence is filled with delight.  Her enthusiasm for the subjects she writes about is evident in her writing, inviting young readers to get just as interested as she is.  The art carries that same enthusiasm in its bright colors and details.  Done in watercolor, the colors are surprisingly deep and lush. 

If you have the first three books from these amazing collaborators, this is a must-buy.  It should be on the shelves of any school or public library, sure to get young people exploring a new subject.  Appropriate for ages 7-9.

Reviewed from copy received from Chronicle Books.

Book Review: If Rocks Could Sing by Leslie McGuirk

ifrockscouldsing

If Rocks Could Sing: a Discovered Alphabet by Leslie McGuirk

This is such an intriguing premise for an alphabet book!  Each alphabet along with the items that the letter stands for are shown in rocks.  The rocks were found along a Florida shore and not changed to look this way.  It is a book based on finding treasures others overlook and seeing possibilities.  The book has a simple layout, allowing the rocks to be the feature here.  It begins with A is for Addition with rocks standing in for 1, 8, = and 9.  B is for Bird with a very unique bird-shaped rock posed in a nest.  C is for couch potato, because who could ever not use this perfectly potato-like rock!  The book is a whimsical tribute to beachcombing.

It is such a simple concept that it has to be done right.  While a couple of the rocks do seem more like blobs than the object they are meant to be, others are startlingly close.  Look at the T is for Toast page, and you can almost see the whole-wheat grain in the toast slice.  The book is a delight just to page through and discover.

It is a book that will have you looking for much more than pretty seashells on your next visit to the beach!  Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from copy received from Random House Children’s Books.

Also reviewed by Journey of a Bookseller.

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