When Grandma Gives You a Lemon Tree by Jamie L. B. Deenihan, illustrated by Lorraine Rocha (9781454923817)
A little girl had made a list of what she was hoping to get for birthday gifts. On the list were items like a phone, a computer and a drone. But her grandmother got her a lemon tree. In this twist on the adage that when given lemons you should make lemonade, the narrator of the book offers the girl some advice on how to handle her gift. The advice includes what face to make when given the gift and details on how to care for her lemon tree including cautioning her not to hurt it. As the girl follows the advice, she discovers a connection to her lemon tree even before it bears its first crop of lemons for her. As she literally makes and sells lemonade from her lemons, the girl now has to decide how to spend her cash. She returns to the original list, but adds a new number, one that the lemon tree has taught her all about.
The clever twist on the adage is well done, creating a scaffold for the entire story. While the narrative of the book focuses entirely on advice, the illustrations show how the girl chooses to follow it. The narrative is humorous and offers choices for the main character in how she can react to options in her life. Throughout, as is appropriate for a book based on making lemonade, the spin is to be more positive and never sour.
The illustrations are fresh and funny. The family is depicted as African-American and the story is set in an urban area. This gives the lemon tree a great canvas to offer change and the main character a great place to offer lemonade. The illustrations are funny and bright.
A great spin on an old saying, this book is a breath of positivity. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from copy provided by Sterling Children’s Books.
Trees by Verlie Hutchens, illustrated by Jing Jing Tsong (9781481447072)
Celebrate trees in this book of verse with each poem focused on one type of tree. There are willows, oaks, birch, aspen and more. A total of fourteen trees are highlighted here in free verse, each one embracing the unique nature of that tree with clarity and brevity. The poems are only a few lines long, yet the capture the tree perfectly. The poems are more about the inherent nature of the tree than really describing them physically. There are trees that pride themselves on their straight arrow-like height, others that are filled with giggles in spring. Each poem suits the tree its about, changing in tone to match.
The art by Tsong is exceptional. Some of the taller trees are done so that the book must be turned to read the words and see the tree upright. Others are shown in a full landscape whether budding in spring or standing against a snowstorm. The illustrations are done using digital collage with hand-done elements. They are filled with lines that swirl and move, creating breezes on the page and rings on the branches and trunks of the trees.
A beautiful book of poetry about the trees in our world. Appropriate for ages 6-9.
Reviewed from copy provided by Beach Lane Books.
Ducks Away! By Mem Fox, illustrated by Judy Horacek (9781338185669)
A mother duck crosses a bridge with her ducklings, all five of them! But then one of the little ducks is blown off of the bridge and down into the water below. Mother Duck doesn’t know what to do with four ducklings on the bridge and one down in the water. Then one by one, the other little ducks tumble down to the water. Finally, all five are floating below and they encourage their mother to join them and take the jump herself. This playful counting book merrily counts up to five in a natural way, then counts both up and down as ducklings move from bridge to water. It all feels so much a part of the story thanks to the subtle rhyme structure and the rhythms deftly created by Fox. The illustrations continue the simplicity of the text, and are just right to share with a group or with one child. A picture book you can count on! Appropriate for ages 1-3. (Reviewed from library copy.)
Everybunny Count! By Ellie Sandall (9781534400146)
As the foxes and bunnies play together, they decide that today is the day for hide-and-seek. They count up to ten and then as they search, the counting begins again. They steadily count up to ten once more, giving young listeners objects to count on each page. When the bunnies finally find Fox, he has a surprise for them! One that will help them count all the way to ten again. Sandall’s picture book has a freshness and a lightness that is very welcome. The incorporation of so much counting in a single book adds to the fun as do the personalities of each of the animals. A counting delight. Appropriate for ages 2-4. (Reviewed from library copy.)
Shake the Tree by Chiara Vignocchi, Paolo Chiarinotti and Silvia Borando (9780763694883)
This bright and active picture book is just right for sharing aloud. When Mouse discovers a nut high in a tree, she tries shaking the tree to get it to fall down to her. She shakes it a little to the left and right, but the nut doesn’t budge. A fox though falls down out of the tree and wants to eat the Mouse who scampers up into the tree’s branches. So the Fox shakes the tree, but the Mouse and the nut do not fall down, instead a Warthog comes down and Fox runs up the tree to escape. When Bear falls down next, he really shakes the tree a lot. All of the animals fall down to the ground along with the nut. What will Bear do now?
Shared aloud, the reader will be shaking the tree and the book back and forth. This book could so easily help with concepts of right and left, particularly if you made the story time interactive and the children helped “shake” the tree too. The book also has a clever way to incorporate counting with each animal adding a shake each time they try. It counts up without actually counting, making it a book that has a natural rhythm and appeal. The illustrations add to this with their bright colors and the large animals tumbling from the tree. Funny and a great read-aloud add this one to your next story time on trees or counting. Appropriate for ages 2-4. (Reviewed from library copy.)
These three picture books are all about the joy and power of play.
Another Way to Climb a Tree by Liz Garton Scanlon, illustrated by Hadley Hooper (9781626723528)
Lulu loves to climb trees. She saves cats, retrieves kites and climbs trees that others won’t. When Lulu gets sick though, she can’t climb trees for awhile. She misses the trees and the trees and birds miss her too. As Lulu looks out of her window, only the sun is climbing the tree. But then she notices the tree’s shadow on her bedroom wall and Lulu realizes that she can still pretend to be high in the branches. Scanlon’s writing is rich and simple at the same time. She speaks about the joy of climbing trees and then with poignancy shows how much Lulu misses being outside and being up in tree branches. The illustrations by Hooper are done with printmaking and have a traditional and organic feel that adds to the connection with nature felt on the pages. Get this into the hands of children with skinned knees and sunburned noses. Appropriate for ages 4-6. (Reviewed from library copy.)
The Five Forms by Barbara McClintock (9781626722163)
When a girl discovers a book of martial arts forms, she ignores the warming in the book that says that “unexpected results” can happen if anyone other than a master attempts them. When the girl tries the crane form, a large crane appears in her room. The crane is quite problematic and destructive, so she quickly moves on to leopard form. As the two animals fight, she adds another and another with a snake and dragon joining the battle. Finally, she reaches the last form to turn things back to normal. She tidies up the mess of the house just before her mother comes in with tickets to the zoo. Perhaps it’s time for someone else to read that book! McClintock’s text is very simple here, with much of the action of the book happening in the images. The book moves from straight picture book to comic frames and back again with alacrity and in a way that flows naturally from form to form. The illustrations are filled with huge animals, messes and activity. This is a fun look at martial arts with a dash of magic. Appropriate for ages 3-5. (Review copy provided by Farrar Straus Giroux Books for Young Readers.)
Fort-Building Time by Megan Wagner Lloyd, illustrated by Abigail Halpin (9780399556562)
Celebrate the seasons through play in this picture book that has different forts built by kids throughout the year. Winter starts the book with an ice and snow fort made merry with pine boughs for seating, berries and branches for decorations. Spring has a quiet fort filled with books to read, a cozy blanket hung between trees. Summer takes the fort to the beach with driftwood, towels, starfish and snacks. The fall fort is up in the changing trees with leaves falling all around. But sometimes forts go awry too! The only solution is a bigger, better fort next time. The text of this picture book is poetic and celebratory of each of the seasons with each season clearly depicted and then the fort shown in the illustrations. The images are filled with diverse children playing together. The fine-lined images are a mix of watercolor, colored pencil and digital that create a rich, warm setting. Have plenty of blankets, boxes and pillows around because little listeners will want to immediately build their own forts. Appropriate for ages 3-5. (E-galley provided by Edelweiss and Alfred A. Knopf.)
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.
Bertolt by Jacques Goldstyn (9781592702299, Amazon)
Told in the voice of a young boy who is different from the others around him. He doesn’t mind wearing different colored gloves after he can’t find his lost one. He enjoys being alone most of the time, unlike the others in his town. His favorite place to be alone is in a huge oak tree that is named Bertolt. The boy spends his days up in Bertolt’s branches, weathering storms together, making friends with the animals and birds that live in the tree. The boy looks forward to spring when Bertolt’s leaves will return and become a splendid green shelter again. But when the other trees burst into flower and leaf, Bertolt doesn’t. Eventually, the boy must admit that Bertolt is dead, but what does one do when a tree dies? The boy figures out exactly the right thing.
This is a story of an introverted child who doesn’t mind being on his own one bit. As a fellow introvert, I love seeing the depiction of a child who isn’t longing to be included but instead finds real pleasure in his time spent alone. It’s a story of independence and imagination, showing that quiet time alone can lead to creative solutions even when you have lost something you love. The book is touching, warm and celebratory.
The illustrations are lovely with the huge sweeping oak tree filling the page, the branches thick and strong, the leaves aglow with green and light. The fine-lined images capture the boy almost dwarfed by the space around him and yet eagerly also a vital part of the scene. His acorn cap speaks to his connection to nature and set him apart from the people around him as well.
A lovely look at introversion, imagination and the power of being different and embracing it. Appropriate for ages 5-7.
Reviewed from copy received from Enchanted Lion Books.
Molly & Pim and the Millions of Stars by Martine Murray (InfoSoup)
Released January 17, 2017.
Molly longs not to have a mother who heads into the woods to collect weeds and herbs. She wants a normal family that has a normal house, not one that feels like a caravan inside. She wants a mother who gives her granola bars in packages, not one who creates potions and treatments. Her neighbors want them to calm down too, get control of their rooster who crows at dawn and to neaten up their yard. Molly’s mother creates a powerful potion to grow a tree in one night that will shield them from the neighbors, but accidentally drinks it herself. Suddenly, Molly’s mother has turned into a tree. Now Molly has to decide who to trust with the secrets of her life. It can’t be Ellen, her best friend, who is very normal and whose life Molly covets. Instead she turns to the odd boy in their class, Pim, who creates a plan along with Molly to bring her mother back. But will it work before her neighbors start to cut off the branches of the wild new tree?
This Australian import is a magical read and not only for the real magic that happens on the pages. It has a gorgeous tone about it, one that is organic and delicious at the same time. One feels invited directly into the wonder of potions and weeds, your hands itching to get out there and brew your own green syrup. The voice throughout is fresh and filled with surprise.
Molly grows throughout the book, realizing that her own unique upbringing is nothing to be ashamed of. I love that it is Ellen, the normal one, who teaches her this. She speaks directly to Molly about how it feels to be excluded and how important it is to trust. The writing in the book is very special, creating moments like these that are less about lectures and more about sudden inspiration and realizations.
A gorgeously written novel that offers potions, magic and wonder. Appropriate for ages 9-12.
Reviewed from e-galley received from Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers and Edelweiss.
Yellow Time by Lauren Stringer (InfoSoup)
The geese are flying south, the squirrels are busy and the crows are the only birds left in the trees. The air smells different and everyone knows that the trees must drop their leaves soon. Then the wind comes and the air fills with yellow leaves. Children run outside and play in the swirling yellow breezes. When the leaves have fallen, the yellow is in piles on the ground, covering everything. Children gather the leaves to press in books to remember the special time just before winter comes with its whiteness.
Stringer shares the drama of autumn in this picture book. She uses phrases like “a symphony of yellow” to capture the wonder of what is happening, mixing senses of sound and color together. When she describes the smell of autumn just before the leaves fall, she uses comparisons that children will understand: “Like wet mud and dry grass with a sprinkle of sugar.” It offers up the richness and deepness of the smell, the intangible dryness that is part of it and the sweetness as well. She skillfully creates autumn on the page with her words.
The illustrations celebrate the diversity of a small neighborhood filled with yellow trees and the children who wait for the falling leaves to start. There is a gorgeous overload of yellow on the pages, bright and cheerful, filled with motion and tumbling breezes and leaves. The pages are just as fresh and vibrant as the season she is depicting.
A joyous book that welcomes autumn with open arms. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from copy received from Beach Lane Books.
Wonderfall by Michael Hall (InfoSoup)
In a series of poems, this picture book celebrates the changing seasons through the experience of a tree. First in the greenness of summer, the acorns start to fall from the oak tree. The yellow school bus arrives and the tree’s leaves start to change. Harvest time arrives, parades march past, and Halloween comes.The leaves start to fall, Thanksgiving comes and children play in the piles of leaves. Wind arrives, taking most of the leaves off the tree and its time to rake. No leaves left, the tree stands bare until snow comes with the new winter season.
Hall celebrates the autumn season with this picture book that encompasses the very beginning signs of autumn all the way through to full winter. The focus on a single tree as the one experiencing the changes works well, particularly with the vivid changes that the tree goes through itself. It is also interesting to see trees as witnessing what humans do just as they watch the activities of the squirrels on the ground and in their branches. The book ends with information on animals seen in the book and how they prepare for winter.
The illustrations are signature Hall with bold shapes done in collage. The leaves are oversized and glorious, full of bold colors and the size of branches. They enliven the page no matter their color, making the winter pages when they are gone all the more cold and barren.
Simple and poetic, this is a great new pick for fall story times and units. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from copy received from Greenwillow Books.