Secrets I Know by Kallie George, illustrated by Paola Zakimi (9781101938935, Amazon)
A little girl spends a rainy day playing in her backyard and sharing secrets with the reader. She knows lots of secrets like secrets are for whispering and whispers hide in trees. She uses the tree as an umbrella and then her umbrella as a boat for her toys. She and her puppy play in the sandbox and have a tea party there, the sunshine sweetening the tea. A friend joins her and they play dress up and then head outside to the trees once again when darkness falls and the stars come out.
George writes with a poetic simplicity here. In the little girl’s voice, she chains together the different experiences she is having, each one leading naturally to the next. It’s rather like a daisy-chain of a picture book spent outside and having a wonderful time whether on her own or with a friend.
Zakimi’s illustrations are detailed and filled with warmth. The blustery and rainy day is shown as an opportunity to play outside and have fun, not as anything that limits activities. Even darkness can’t stop the little girl from enjoying herself outdoors as stars fill the sky. The use of just one backyard as the canvas for the day shows how large imagination can be and how much fun can be had.
A simple book with lots of big ideas, this picture book shows how any day can be a special one. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from e-galley received from Edelweiss and Schwartz & Wade Books.
The Princess in Black by Shannon Hale & Dean Hale, illustrated by LeUyen Pham
Princess Magnolia was having hot chocolate and scones with Duchess Wigtower when then monster alarm sounded. Dressed in along dress of pink with a tiara, no one would expect that Princess Magnolia is actually also the Princess in Black who battles monsters and protects her kingdom. After all, princesses don’t wear black! Waiting outside the castle is Frimplepants, the princess’ unicorn, but he is also Blacky, the trusty pony of the Princess in Black. The two of them galloped off to face the monster who is threatening the herd of goats. Now the princess has to save the goatherd, battle the monster, and keep her secret identity from the nosy Duchess Wigtower!
Bravo for a princess figure who neither scorns the tiaras and dresses and pink nor is limited by them for the way she lives her life! This is one amazing young woman who transforms into a hero, but clearly lives her princess life with the same heroism and dedication as she has in her alter ego. The writing is light and fresh with rather dim-witted huge monsters who just want a meal and remember vaguely that there is a reason they don’t eat the kingdom’s goats. Happily too, the princess does the fighting, isn’t terrified at all, and routs the monsters from her kingdom. Clever, strong and brave, she’s exactly the heroine that her kingdom needs.
Pham’s illustrations show a young princess who is not stick-thin or Barbie-like in any way. Instead, she is strong in her body, built like a young girl actually is, and when she does battle it feels right and she doesn’t come off as weak at all. The illustrations of the monsters add to the humor, though their size is daunting.
A real treat for young readers looking for a real girl doing real battle whether she is a princess or not. Appropriate for ages 6-8.
Reviewed from library copy.
The Secret Tree by Natalie Standiford
The neighborhood that Minty lived in had some very interesting stories. There was the Man-Bat, a huge combination of man and bat that lived in the woods. On the other side of the woods was the Witch’s House, where Minty’s best friend Paz was brave enough to knock but then lost her little sister’s favorite stuffed animal when the witch emerged and grabbed her. When Minty saw a flash in the woods one day, she headed off to see what it was. That’s how she met Raymond, a boy who lived alone in the new development model house. She also discovered the Secret Tree, a hollow tree where people in town left their secrets. She and Raymond started collecting the secrets and trying to match them with people. Who is the person who is only loved by their goldfish? Who has put a curse on their enemy? Who is betraying their best friend? And what secrets are the people closest to Minty keeping?
Standiford has created a compelling story about the power of secrets, but also the necessity for them at times. The slow unraveling of the mysteries of the secrets makes for fascinating reading that will capture the interest of children. It is one of those books that reads lightly, but has a great deal of depth behind it, especially as the secrets of the community are revealed.
Minty is a great heroine. She is at the cusp of becoming a teen and her best friend is maturing faster than she is. Minty isn’t interested in laying out in the sun at the pool (at least not without eating a snow-cone) and she doesn’t like the new, older girls her friend is hanging out with. Instead Minty wants to plan on becoming a roller derby star, discover the secrets around her, and just be herself.
This rich novel will be a great pick for classroom reading and discussions. It is also the ideal summer read, especially for all of us who love a great secret. Appropriate for ages 10-13.
Reviewed from ARC received from Scholastic.