Teacup by Rebecca Young, illustrated by Matt Ottley (InfoSoup)
A boy sets off in a boat, leaving his home behind with only a book, a bottle, a blanket and a teacup of earth from his homeland. The journey is long and filled with changing days at sea. Sometimes it is quiet, other times dangerous, other times dramatic. Then one day, the earth in his teacup begins to sprout, growing into a tree that shelters him, gives him food, and offers hope. Eventually, his boat bumps into land where he moves his tree to a hill and it grows taller. He waits for a whisper and when it comes, he discovers another traveler has joined him.
This is such a gentle book yet it speaks to larger issues of displacement, refugees and homelessness. Young’s text is poetic, creating moments of quietness and moments of wonder, often side-by-side. While we don’t truly get to know the boy himself, the book embraces the journey that people take into the unknown, whether that means leaving your family and country behind or starting a new school.
Ottley’s illustrations are stunningly beautiful. He captures the sea journey with a feeling of expansiveness, the boy and his boat small in the image and sky and sea vast around him. The clouds are immensely lovely, conveying menace and hope as appropriate to the story. These are illustrations to linger over and just feel.
A gorgeous allegory picture book sure to speak to those of us on longer or shorter journeys in our lives. Appropriate for ages 4-7.
Reviewed from ARC received from Dial Books.
Jim Curious: A Voyage to the Heart of the Sea by Matthias Picard
In black and white images, a boy walks out his house. With a klang, he emerges and takes steps with a loud bong since he’s wearing a diving suit. Turn the page, put on your 3D glasses, and once the boy enters the water the magic starts to happen. Jim is now exploring. He passes a sunken car and a long pipeline, but soon reaches the open ocean. As the pages turn, the 3D effects are gasp-worthy and so well done. Readers and Jim together are on an amazing journey at sea.
A nearly wordless book, this is true immersion. I’m not usually a fan of books with gimmicks but the 3D is put to such incredible use on the page here that I found myself immediately drawn in. It is so effective that you will find yourself reaching out to touch parts of the image that seem closest and then feel shocked when you touch a flat page. It happened to me time and again.
While this may not be ideal to circulate at libraries since the glasses will quickly be lost, this is a great gift book that is definitely worth exploring. Appropriate for ages 4-10.
Reviewed from copy received from Abrams Books for Young Readers.
Coral Reefs by Jason Chin
Chin follows up the success of Redwoods with this equally fine read. The nonfiction magical realism continues, this time exploring coral reefs. A girl enters the New York Public Library and selects this same book from the shelves. As she turns the pages, coral begins to grow around her on the tables and floor. She learns new facts about coral reefs when suddenly the room is flooded. She continues to read, happily floating with the fish and sea turtle of the reef. The food chain is explored and sharks appear in the water. Soon she is floating in the city, entirely flooded with the reef growing upon it, almost unrecognizable through the coral, blue water and the creatures. The book ends with another group of children seeing the girl dripping outside the library, taking the book and reading it with her. They all swim together into the coral reefs.
As a librarian, I always love books that are set in libraries and that speak, as this one does so clearly, to the power of shared reading and libraries in children’s lives. Chin mixes nonfiction facts with his magical settings in ways that astonish and engage.
The facts on each page work with the illustrations, which demonstrate the facts in picture form. Chin’s art is lovely from the floating delight of the girl to the menacing sharks to the light that plays in the water.
This is a book that invites you in and teaches you facts and information while you too are happily floating along. Appropriate for ages 5-8.
Reviewed from copy received from Roaring Brook Press.
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The Treasure Bath by Dan Andreasen
This jolly wordless picture book has a toddler who is busily helping his mother bake a cake. All messy after the cake goes in the oven, he is put in the bath. His facial expression makes it clear that he is not happy to be headed there. But once he is in the bath with his boat, his imagination goes to work and he is surrounded by colorful fish who join him in swimming down deep into the sea to find a treasure map. They follow the map to the treasure chest which is filled with soap and shampoo. From there he is grabbed by an eel and scrubbed by an octopus as a whale rinses him off with his spout. The little boy complains to the fish about how he was treated, then he returns to reality in the bath with his hair neatly combed and his mother waiting to get him out. And what is waiting when he gets out of the bath? Cake!
The joyful and jolly spirit of this book is what captured me immediately. Yes, the little boy is grumpy when being put into the bath, but then the magic begins. The scenes underwater are just as crisp and clear as those in reality. The lines between the two are seamless, letting the book really feel like a vivid daydream. Andreasen’s art is done in oil on bristol board and has a nice depth, great colors, and a perfect dappled effect in the underwater scenes.
A sudsy, jolly book that is perfect for toddlers who may not enjoy baths and for those who do too. Appropriate for ages 2-5.
Reviewed from book received from publisher.