Tag: urban areas

City Shapes by Diana Murray

City Shapes by Diana Murray

City Shapes by Diana Murray, illustrated by Brian Collier (InfoSoup)

Various shapes are shown in a vibrant urban city in this picture book. A young girl walks through the city, takes public transportation and notices shapes as she goes. There are the squares of boxes and trucks. Rectangles form glass on the skyscrapers, windows and benches. Triangles are flags and sails. Wheels are circles along with manhole covers. Musical instruments in a band show oval shapes in their drums and lights. Diamonds fly as kites and stars fill the night sky. The girl returns home to bed, just as the pigeon who took flight on the first page returns to her nest, both listening to the noises of the city around them.

This dynamic picture book celebrates the beauty of urban life, the movement and rush of it all, the variety you find there. Seen through the lens of finding shapes in real life, this picture book would be a great way to look outside your own windows and see shapes there too. The bright friendliness of the city streets makes for a refreshing picture book. The text reads as a poem, filled with rhymes and rhythms that match the city setting.

Collier’s illustrations are a gorgeous mix of media, incorporating collage in a way that makes the shapes stand out but also fit into the setting too. It’s very cleverly done. The little girl in the book is based on Collier’s own young daughter. Her face is filled with enthusiasm throughout the book, her attitude wonderfully contagious.

A beautiful, colorful and shape-ly book that celebrates urban life. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.


Maybe Something Beautiful by F. Isabel Campoy

Maybe Something Beautiful by F Isabel Campoy

Maybe Something Beautiful: How Art Transformed a Neighborhood by F. Isabel Campoy and Theresa Howell, illustrated by Rafael López (InfoSoup)

Based on the true story of the colorful transformation of the East Village neighborhood in San Diego, California, this picture book shows how art can impact quality of life. Mira is a little girl who loves to create art. She lives in a gray city where she tries to share her art and change things, but her art is too little to make big changes. Then she meets a man who is creating huge murals and who allows Mira to help him. Soon other neighbors are helping and colors begin to fill the streets, creating a close-knit neighborhood.

There is a sense of joy and hope throughout this picture book, led by little Mira, a girl with the heart of an artist from the very start of the book. Just sharing her art with her neighbors is an act of artistic courage that sets the tone for the rest of the story. The text is accented by “Bams!” and “Pows” that add to the dynamic tone. Everything here is filled with creative energy and a cheery tone.

López’s art shows the gray concrete city and then imposes Mira and her own colorful attitude against it. The paint splashes on the page and also creates vibrant rainbows of swirling colors that dance on the page. The diverse neighborhood is captured with a richness that is captivating. As color fills the page, it fills the neighborhood too.

A brilliant testament to the power of art and the way it can transform a life and a neighborhood. Appropriate for ages 4-7.

Reviewed from library copy.



The Not-So-Faraway Adventure by Andrew Larsen

The Not So Faraway Adventure by Andrew Larsen

The Not-So-Faraway Adventure by Andrew Larsen, illustrated by Irene Luxbacher (InfoSoup)

Theo’s grandfather, Poppa, had traveled all over the world. He has a big trunk packed with items from his travels. Now it is Poppa’s birthday and Theo wants to give him the perfect gift. She realizes that it would be wonderful to go on an adventure together. When he speaks of traveling to the ocean once, Theo decides that they will head to the beach and eat at a restaurant. They create a map of their plans together and the next day their board a bus. Soon they reach the beach and the water which they pretend is the ocean. It’s a beach where Poppa came as a little boy. The two spend time on the beach, eat gazpacho and then head home on the bus. Now Theo has items to add to the trunk that are from their adventure together.

A dynamic picture book, this book demonstrates that adventures can be right in our own cities and need not take much time, money or effort. It is also a beautiful look at a granddaughter spending time with her Poppa and a grandfather who has more than enough energy to keep up with her. The urban setting is captured with people of various ethnicity on the page. It’s a bustling and busy place but also welcoming.

Luxbacher’s illustrations are done in PhotoShop and have the feel of collage. Textures and patterns are used throughout, creating a setting that is rich and layered. The city is done with just enough pops of color to keep it dynamic and not so many to make it entirely overwhelming. The page on the beach where they imagine the water is the ocean is captivating with the water entirely swallowing the page and filled with glimpses of their imagination.

A lovely look at a grandchild and grandfather going on their own personal adventure together. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from digital galley received from Kids Can Press and Edelweiss.


I Am a Bear by Jean-Francois Dumont

I Am a Bear by Jean Francois Dumont

I Am a Bear by Jean-Francois Dumont (InfoSoup)

Told in the first person, this is a story of a bear who finds himself living on the streets of a city. He has a stack of cardboard boxes that make up his home. He isn’t welcome in any of the stores, and finds it safer to scrounge for food after dark. That means that he sleeps most of the day. He had tried to talk with people, but he scared them since he’s such a big bear. He gave up after awhile, paying no attention to those walking past him anymore. Until one day, a little girl notices him and talks directly to him. She returns the next day too and the bear has made an effort to clean up himself and his home. She calls him a teddy bear and visits again and again. Suddenly the bear has something to look forward to each day, and there is hope.

Dumont is the author of The Chickens Build a Wall and the series of silly books that follow it. This book though is a departure from that frenetic cheery tone. Here there is darkness, hunger and need. Here there is a bear who clearly is not actually a bear, but treated as such by society. It does not matter if young readers realize that the bear is a symbol. The story works much the same with a real bear or a real person. The life is hard, the city stark, and hope nonexistent, at first.

The art here is lush and lovely. It shows life on the street both from the bear’s point of view and also from that of an observer like the little girl. The buildings lean and tower above, the traffic is dangerous and close, and the alley is like a canyon. With sharp angles, the perils of life on the street are evident here as appropriate for a child.

A book that will help talk about homelessness and that offers a way forward, kindness. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Eerdmans Books for Young Readers.

Miracle on 133rd Street by Sonia Manzano

Miracle on 133rd Street by Sonia Manzano

Miracle on 133rd Street by Sonia Manzano, illustrated  by Marjorie Priceman (InfoSoup)

On their first Christmas Eve after moving to the Bronx from Puerto Rico, things are just not going well. Their tree is tiny and now the holiday roast is too big to fit in their tiny oven! So Jose and his father head off to find an oven large enough for their big roast. As they leave their apartment building, they bump into neighbor after neighbor, each having a bad holiday too. The children are too noisy, an older couple won’t be seeing their family this year, and others are having money troubles. They head to the local pizzeria where the Ray lets them put the roast in his huge pizza oven. On the way back home with the meal, the smell of the roast tantalizes everyone they pass, making their day better. And best of all is the sharing of the roast and the sharing of the holiday with everyone.

Manzano played Maria on Sesame Street and has been creating marvelous books for children for the last few years. In this picture book, she captures the diversity of a Bronx neighborhood and the way that you can be neighbors but not know one another well. Then she turns it all around and shows how community can suddenly be created by acts of caring and generosity and how those choices can impact everyone around you.

Caldecott-honor winning, Priceman has brought the urban Bronx neighborhood to vivid life here. The buildings sway, bright colored against the dark night sky that is alive with stars and the milky way. The snow shines on the ground. All is filled with spicy colors that fill the holiday with a unique feeling of a diverse community.

A great pick for holiday reading, this picture book has the rhythm of different languages on the page, the joy of diverse holiday traditions and the beauty of a community coming together. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Atheneum Books for Young Readers.

Review: Oskar and the Eight Blessings by Richard Simon

Oskar and the Eight Blesssings by Richard Simon

Oskar and the Eight Blessings by Richard Simon and Tanya Simon, illustrated by Mark Siegel (InfoSoup)

Oskar survived Kristallnacht in Nazi Europe and has been sent by his family to live with his aunt in New York City. When he arrives, he has to walk over 100 blocks down Broadway to reach her, hopefully before she lights the menorah at sunset. Along the way, Oskar is reminded again and again about looking for blessings in life. He is given bread by a woman feeding the birds, a comic book by the man who runs the newsstand, mittens by a boy in the park. But most of all in his long walk in the cold, he is given hope once again that he is somewhere safe.

The authors have created a picture book that speaks to the horrors of the Holocaust only in passing. Instead it is much more focused upon feeling embraced by a city even as a newly-arrived immigrant. It is about the small things that we do in kindness each day and the way that those small things build to something larger and more important for someone. This book celebrates New York City and the shelter and home that can be found there.

The illustrations are interesting for a book set in the past. They incorporate comic-like panels on the page that really work well. The illustrations have a sense of wonder about them. They capture small pieces of New York, allowing the snow and city to swirl around the reader just as they do around Oskar himself.

A lovely holiday book that is about more than either Christmas or Hanukkah but about home and hope. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Roaring Brook Press.

Review: Sidewalk Flowers by JonArno Lawson

sidewalk flowers

Sidewalk Flowers by JoArno Lawson, illustrated by Sydney Smith

As she heads home with her father who is distracted by his cell phone call, a little girl dressed in vibrant red picks wild flowers. Along the way, she takes a moment to smell each of them, creating a bouquet of bright colored blooms. The flowers grow unnoticed by the others on the street in this urban setting, but the little girl spots them all growing out of sidewalk cracks. When the girl and her father reach the park, she notices a dead bird on the sidewalk and leaves some of the flowers there with the bird. A man sleeping on a park bench is given a sprig too. Then she decorates the collar of a friendly dog with more flowers. As they reach home, the little girl gives each of her family members flowers, leaving a trail of them on their hair and heads. The final flower is used to decorate her own hair at the very end.

This wordless picture book is immensely lovely. The story arc really works well and has moments of sophistication that create a vibrant urban world for this girl to live within. As she gathers the flowers, other beautiful parts of the city that would have been overlooked too light up with color or are captured in small moments. From the display of bright fruits in the market to the pigeons on the street, each small piece adds together so that readers “see” the beauty of the city along with the young protagonist.

The art is expressive and lovely. The city is shown in black and white against which the red girl pops like a bright ruby. Portions of the city are done in color, like flowered dresses and the small flowers that the girl gathers too. Then when the girl starts sharing her flowers, the entire world becomes colorful and bright. It is a dynamic shift in the middle of the book, showing the power of generosity and community.

Subtle and powerful, this picture book celebrates seeing the beauty in everyday life and sharing it with others. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.