Thank You, Omu! by Oge Mora (9780316431248)
When Omu makes her thick red stew in her apartment, its delicious smell brings people to her door to discover what she is cooking. One by one, she feeds each of them some of her stew. There is the little boy, the police officer, the hotdog vendor, and many more. By the time Omu has given each of them a bowl, her large pot of stew is empty and there isn’t any left for her own dinner! Someone once again knocks on her door and it is all of the people she fed that day offering their own thanks and food to share with her.
Mora writes with the feel of a traditional tale. On just the first page, there is a cadence that feels immediately familiar and warm. Details are shared in just the right way, then the repetition kicks in, linking this even more with a traditional folktale. Mora has crafted the book with collage pages that combine different mediums. The stew itself is always red and often flowered. The smell wafts across the page in a swath of light-colored haze. Meanwhile, the vibrant urban community is brought to life and abuzz with energy.
A top read-aloud of the year, this picture book should be shared just like red stew. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from library copy.
Mia Moves Out by Miranda Paul, illustrated by Paige Keiser (9780399553325)
When Mia moved into her house, she had a lovely room all to herself. She hung stars from the ceiling and it was perfect. Then her baby brother Brandon arrived, and Mia had to share her room. At first it wasn’t so bad, they had lots of fun together. But the toys piled up until Mia couldn’t even recognize her room anymore. So she made a decision, she would move out! She tried moving into the bathroom, but it was too gross. She tried the basement, but there were scary things in boxes. She tried all sorts of places until she built a space near the books. But something wasn’t quite right. That’s when she found out that Brandon had moved out too. Perhaps they could move out together!
This picture book perfectly captures the give and tug of being siblings. On one hand, they can be maddening while on the other hand, they are important to your life. It also shows the way that children “run away” or move out from their homes, how spur of the moment it is, how built on emotion, and how regretful it eventually becomes. The parents here deal with it well, guiding gently from the sidelines and allowing Mia to make her own decisions.
The illustrations are funny and warm, just like the story line. They show the growing pile of toys overtaking the entire room and the entire page. One can completely understand Mia’s frustration. As Mia searches for the perfect spot to move to, the illustrations play large part in conveying her responses to each.
Clever and funny, this is a warm look at siblings. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by Alfred A. Knopf.
Draw the Line by Kathryn Otoshi (9781626725638)
In this wordless picture book, two boys are drawing lines towards each other without realizing it. When they bump into each other, they join their lines together. But then with an accidental rude tug, the two of them begin a tug of war over their line. Soon an actual rift begins to form between them. The more they pull, the larger the rift grows. Is there a way for them to reach across the newly formed divide? Otoshi plays with the idea of art bringing people together and then introduces competition and a certain amount of tension into the story. The art is playful and uses colors to show the emotions the children are feeling in each scene. A strong picture book about art and friendship. Appropriate for ages 4-6. (Review copy provided by Roaring Brook Press.)
I Have a Balloon by Ariel Bernstein, illustrated by Scott Magoon (9781481472500)
A blue owl has a big red balloon. When a monkey sees it, he wants it so badly. He offers several things in trade for it, but the owl doesn’t agree. Owl turns down a sunflower, a robot, a picture of balloons and a ball. In desperation, he offers a sock. Suddenly Owl perks up and starts to dream of all the things he can do with that sock with a red star on it and a perfect hole. But the deal is not so easily made! This clever and very funny picture book is written entirely in dialogue between the two animals. It has a vibrant and natural feel to it and is ideal for sharing aloud. The art by Magoon is also hilarious, offering ways to use socks, balloons and more. And the expressions on the animals faces are perfection. A fun pick for story times. Appropriate for ages 3-5. (Review copy provided by Simon & Schuster.)
La La La by Kate DiCamillo, illustrated by Jaime Kim (9780763658335)
Newbery Medalist DiCamillo has created a nearly wordless picture book. A little girl sings all on her own, heading outside to sing to the world. Exploring the pond and the plants, she continues to sing. She even heads out in the evening to try again, but nothing works. After she falls asleep, someone answers her after all. Kim’s illustrations offer a world that plays between blank white and a lush world of daylight greens and evening purples. Throughout the illustrations there is a sense of hope and wonder, of knowing that the world is listening. Gentle and thoughtful, this is one to share and then discuss together. Appropriate for ages 3-6. (Reviewed from library copy.)
Two of these picture book welcome winter while another sends it on its way:
Spring for Sophie by Yael Werber, illustrated by Jen Hill (9781481451345)
Sophie is waiting for spring to come, but she’s not sure how to tell when it arrives. Her mother explains that she should be able to hear the changes, so Sophie is patient and listens while she is outside. Eventually she starts to hear more and more birds in the trees. Still, it was snowy outside. Her father explains that she can use her feet to feel spring coming. So Sophie paid attention to how soft the snow was and eventually, it was less icy and more soft. Still, the snow was there. Her mother tells her to use her eyes and nose. Sophie watches the snow melt, the green return and one day her nose tells her that spring has finally arrived! This picture book celebrates the change of season in a tangible way that children will love. The focus is on the child experiencing the changes themselves with gentle guidance from loving adults. The illustrations celebrate both winter and spring, the slow but steady transformation between seasons. A perfect book to invite exploring outside. Appropriate for ages 3-6. (Reviewed from library copy.)
William’s Winter Nap by Linda Ashman, illustrated by Chuck Groenink (9781484722824)
This rhyming picture book tells a story of a boy who is ready for bed. But just as he is about to fall asleep, there comes a tap, tap, tap at his window. It’s a chipmunk and William invites him into his bed to sleep. Again and again, William is about to fall asleep but another animal needs shelter from the cold and the snow. When the last animal knocks, the other animals insist that there isn’t any more room, but somehow they find room for the very large bear with a little help from William. The series of drowsy moments interrupted makes this a great bedtime tale but also a lovely one to share with a group. The illustrations are friendly and inviting, just like William himself. There are opportunities for counting, naming animals and thinking about napping yourself in this very appealing read. Appropriate for ages 2-4. (Reviewed from copy provided by Disney Hyperion.)
Winter Dance by Marion Dane Bauer, illustrated by Richard Jones
Fox wakes up to snowflakes falling and wonders what he should be doing to prepare for winter. A caterpillar suggests that he wrap up in a chrysalis and wake in the spring while the bat thinks a cave would be best. Turtle heads to the bottom of the pond to sleep in the mud and squirrel quickly gathers food. The geese fly south and the snowshoe hare turns white like the snow. Bear falls asleep in a log. But none of those solutions is right for Fox! He finally meets another fox in the woods who knows just what to do. Beautifully written by Bauer, this book uses repetitive structures to evoke a timeless feel that will be welcoming for the youngest listeners. The illustrations by Jones have a lovely softness to them while also showing the changing season and the beauty of the natural setting. A great pick for celebrating the coming winter. Appropriate for ages 2-4. (Reviewed from library copy.)
The Starry Giraffe by Andy Bergmann (9781481491006, Amazon)
Starry Giraffe was very hungry when she came upon an apple tree full of ripe red apples. She selected the most delicious-looking apple and picked it. But just as she was about to eat the apple, a little mouse appeared and told Starry how hungry he was and that he was far too small to reach the apples on his own. So Starry gave him the apple. She turned back to the tree and picked the second most delicious apple to eat. But as the was about to eat it, a family of skunks came up. The giraffe gave them each an apple. And so it continued, with the giraffe picking apples and animals appearing. She gave each of them away until finally there were no more apples on the tree! But just when readers think that there are no apples yet, the story takes a great twist.
This picture book looks at generosity and the power of sharing as the giraffe at the center of the story chooses again and again to share the apples with other animals. The twist at the end moves the book away from more traditional tales and adds a layer of silliness to the story. Abundance is a huge part of this story as the creature with the abundant source of food chooses to share it will all.
Bergmann’s illustrations are simple and bright. The star-covered giraffe is unusual with her starry pattern and the stick-thin legs. The images have a strong graphic punch to them with bright animals on white backgrounds and pale green grass.
A dynamic and modern twist on a story of sharing. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from copy received from Aladdin.
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.
The Gold Leaf by Kirsten Hall, illustrated by Matthew Forsythe (9781592702145, Amazon)
Spring has returned to the forest, filling the woods with all colors of green. In the midst of the new growth, something special sparkled. It was a gold leaf, unique and different. All of the animals wanted to have it. A bird got it first, planning to use it to line its nest. Soon though, other animals grab it and take it for themselves until finally it lays in tatters on the ground and then is swept away by the wind. The animals are so dismayed at what they have done. The seasons change and fall and winter arrive and go. It is spring once again, green and lush. Will the gold leaf return?
Hall dazzles with her prose, offering so many colors of green in a single sentence that it is almost like being in a woods and noting each color. She uses very dynamic pacing in this picture book from the frenzy over the gold leaf itself as it is torn apart to the sadness afterwards and the slow turn of the seasons. That slow consideration continues as the animals wait to see if the gold leaf will ever return to them.
The illustrations take Hall’s considerable list of green colors and convey them to the page. The images are lush and filled with rich colors that have dapples of sunlight, deep shadows and animals that glow against the background. The use of goldleaf for leaf itself is very effectively done, particularly as it is ripped apart and each little piece continues to brighten the page.
A book about wonder, patience and sharing, this picture book is particularly golden. Appropriate for ages 3-6.
Reviewed from copy received from Enchanted Lion.
Little Fox in the Forest by Stephanie Graegin (9780553537895)
In this wordless graphic novel, a little girl brings her stuffed toy fox to school for show-and-tell and it is taken from the playground by a real fox! The girl and her friend chase after the fox, stopping to ask directions when they find a small door in a tree. The squirrel who lives there points them in the right direction. Meanwhile, a weasel tries to steal the toy from the little fox, but a bear steps in and sorts it out. The children arrive at a town where animals live together and they enlist the help of the entire area to search for the fox. Soon they discover the little fox and his stolen toy, but what will they do then?
Graegin tells a really wonderful story solely through images. Using white space to frame her images into a graphic novel format, the story is told with rich details. It clearly establishes the little girl’s long attachment to the stuffed fox and her desire to share it with her class. Then the story becomes a chase sequence and a mystery of where the fox has gone. It then enters a lovely fantasy where the entire animal town comes to life, shown in a wide panorama that makes one want to wander the streets.
One special device used through the book is that the children are shown in black, grays and whites. The color enters the book subtly at first with the little fox and a red bird who watches from above. The children maintain their more somber color palette even as the world around them is vibrant color. Yet these worlds can touch and cross, much to the joy of the reader.
This genre bending graphic-novel picture book is beautiful, rich and worthy of journeying through time and again. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from e-galley received from Edelweiss and Schwartz and Wade.
How to Share with a Bear by Eric Pinder, illustrated by Stephanie Graegin
Thomas made a pillow cave on a cold day. But when he went to get a flashlight to read by, he noticed that something big had taken over the cave. Something with two brown eyes looked back at him when he looked inside. It was a bear! To get the bear out of his cave, Thomas laid a trail of blueberries down the stairs and sure enough, the bear followed eating them up. Thomas ran to get books to read in his cave, but he was too late and the bear had already returned. He tricked the bear with a back-scratching stick and then got inside the cave, but stray bear fuzz had him sneezing and running for a tissue. In the meantime, the bear returned. Thomas tricked the bear again and again into leaving the cave, but when the bear returned finally and Thomas was already in the cave, something happened. The bear started to cry, revealing himself to be Thomas’ younger brother. There was only one thing to do!
Pinder has created a book sparkling with creativity. His young protagonist who is battling the invasive brother bear comes up with clever ways again and again to trick the bear into leaving the cave. Pinder keeps each of the tricks appropriate for both a bear and a little boy, keeping the audience entirely fooled until his reveal. I was completely convinced of this being a little bear and expected the book to end with a teddy bear of some kind. It was a delight to discover a different twist that speaks to how to be a good older sibling.
The illustrations from Graegin are key to keeping the audience convinced of the bear being real. She subtle makes sure that the face is not shown until that moment of reveal. The book glows with a yellow warmth that invites curling up under a blanket or in your own pillow cave to read it.
A great pick for bear story times, this picture book shows how hard sharing can be. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from copy received from Farrar, Straus & Giroux.