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Saturday, July 31, 2021

Tears, by Sibylle Delacroix. Owlkids, 2021. $19.95 ages 3 and up

"Our tears nurture secret gardens. 
They are precious. 

Small tears leave our cheeks salty. 

Big tears leave our eyes puffy and red."

Even though one might feel embarrassed while crying, this book sets out to let young children know that tears happen for many different reasons - all of them valid and normal. Tears play an important role for everyone. It doesn't matter if you are big or small; it doesn't matter if you are human or not; why, what about weeping willows?  

In this quiet heartfelt book, Ms. Delacroix is plainspoken about the many reasons for tears. It is normal for tears to fall in response to events that impact us. Often, crying allows for the emotional release of pent-up feelings of sadness, anger, frustration, happiness, empathy, even exhaustion. Crying can be exactly what is needed to change us and leave us open to new actions and emotions. 

Too often, young children are told not to cry. They need the spontaneity to feel what they are feeling, and to express it through tears if that is what is appropriate. In fact, we all cry for any number of reasons. We cry quietly; we sob loudly; we laugh so hard we cry; we cry without making a sound. There is no right way, only the need to express our feelings with our tears. Children need to know that tears are one of the many ways we respond honestly. 

When tears overwhelm our children, they want to know that someone is there to hold them tight and let them know that things will be okay.  What a tender message to offer!  This timely book begins with anxious faces, and ends in joy and hope for better times ahead. 

Graphite illustrations begin in moody grays as the children are met, followed, and watched closely. Once their load is lightened, with the help of tears, those grays give way to brighter colors and happier times.

Friday, July 30, 2021

This Is Ruby, written by Sara O'Leary and illustrated by Alea Marley. tundra, Penguin Random House. 2021. $21.99 ages 4 and up


"Ruby likes to make things. 

She likes to watch things grow. 

And she likes to figure out how
things work. 

Ruby knows that there is always 
another way to see the world ...

Ruby is introduced to readers by an unseen narrator. Peeking around the bright red door that leads inward, she eagerly welcomes her guests to see the little town she has been building. It is evident from this first page turn that she is busy, busy, busy. A blackboard sports a to-do list: invent, explore, make potion. Her table is covered with all the paraphernalia a young inventor might need as she explores new ideas. Teddy, her dog and best friend, is a constant companion. 

Ruby is considering a future as an animal conservationist, an astronaut or an engineer. Her personal list goes on. No decisions have yet been made. Readers are occasionally asked if they know what their own future holds. Ruby's day, from beginning to end, is filled with ever-changing activity and flights of imagination. Her interests are varied. She likes thinking about yesterday, today and tomorrow. There are no limits on what she can, and might do. 

"She's looking forward to tomorrow, 
but her favorite day is today. 

She's so glad you were here to share it with her."

This is an engaging account of a young girl whose enthusiasm for life and learning is filled with charm and invitation. Questions asked throughout are sure to have readers stopping to consider their answers. 

Digital illustrations are filled with eye-catching colors, exciting vignettes, and absolute joy.                                                                            

Thursday, July 29, 2021

The Elephants Come Home: A True Story of Seven Elephants, Two People, and One Extraordinary Friendship, written by Kim Tomsic and illustrated by Hadley Hooper. Chronicle Books, Raincoast. 2021. $24.99 ages 6 and up

"They've been BULLIED and HUNTED," 
the lady says. "Now they roar at the rangers
and crush our fences. Folks are frightened 
the herd might stampede through town. The 
village chief says it's a matter of safety - the 
herd must leave or be shot."

Lawrence has never taken care of elephants, 
but he says, yes, they may come to Thula Thula.

Thula Thula is a wildlife refuge covering 11,00 acres in the African bush. There is no hunting there, and plenty of space for animals of all kinds to roam, swim, and live safely. Lawrence and Francoise love each other, and taking care of the many animals that call Thula Thula home. Because of Lawrence's great love for all animals, people often call asking for help to solve big problems. That is the case with a herd of enraged elephants. 

Having no experience with elephants, Lawrence still agrees to give it a try. A corral is built, fencing is repaired, and new signs are posted reminding all that there is no hunting on Thula Thula. The arrival of the seven elephants does not go well. On the first night, they break free from the corral, the outer fencing, and from the safety that Thula Thula affords them. Lawrence calls for help; finally, a helicopter search finds them. Now, Lawrence must try to convince the herd to return to sanctuary. Eventually, they do turn back. 

Lawrence makes a promise to Nana, their matriarch. 

"But if you rest, I'll take care of you. 
I will live with you by day and camp 
with you by night. I will stay with you, 
and you will not be alone.

Lawrence sings and talks with them, day and night. Soon, they are HAPPY! Once settled, the elephants are allowed to range Thula Thula without restriction. They are HOME. Lawrence and the elephants form a very special bond. As years go by, the elephants live further from the farmhouse, coming only occasionally for a visit. Their bond remains strong. When Lawrence dies, the elephants know. They trek back to the farmhouse, where they spend time with Francoise in her grief. 

"The elephants live with Francoise
by day and camp with her by night. 

They stay with her, and she is not alone."

Except to mention that Hadley Hooper's artwork makes the reader feel present in the African bush, and offers all of its beauty in the colors used to create a realistic and memorable backdrop for this incredible story, there is nothing else to say. 

Visit to learn more.                                                                               

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Kiyoshi's Walk, written by Mark Karlins and illustrated by Nicole Wong. Lee & Low Books, Fitzhenry and Whiteside. 2021. $24.95 ages 5 and up


"Eto stopped and wrote: 

Hill of orange suns.
Cat leaps. Oranges tumble. 
The cat licks its paw.

Kiyoshi felt puzzled. "Does 
that mean poems come from 
seeing things?"

They kept walking."

This is another important intergenerational story. Eto, the grandfather, is a poet. He chooses exquisite wording to compose haiku. Kiyoshi, his grandson, has great respect for Eto's writing. On this particular day, he asks: 

"Where do poems come from?"

His grandfather answers with an invitation to go for a walk together. He takes pen and paper with him as they head out. Both are interested in the many scenes they encounter. Eto stops often to pen a poem. Kiyoshi continues with his questions; Eto does not provide an answer, showing rather than telling. They carry on. 

Eto continues to use his notebook and pen, and Kiyoshi notices the poems reflect the many things they are seeing, hearing, and even imagining. At the river's edge, Eto sits to rest while his grandson feeds the ducks. Approaching darkness has the two sitting together on a stone bench, Kiyoshi has one final observation to make before they head home. He knows his grandfather has shown him clearly where poems come from, with actions rather than words. 

"They come from here," he said, and opened 
his arms wide to take in the river and the sky
and the distant buildings. "And they come 
from here," he said, and pointed to his own 

Nicole Wong's warm cityscapes offer varying perspectives and a cast of diverse community members. Her colors are warm and inviting, causing readers to stop and spend time taking in all of the details. An author's note about this traditional Japanese poetic form is informative and helpful for readers wanting to give it a try.                                                                                

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

On The Trapline, written by David A. Robertson and illustrated by Julie Flett. tundra, Penguin Random House. 2021. $21.99 ages 4 and up


"I close my eyes and picture the trapline.
The trees, the water and all the land and
little islands. Chopping wood and picking
berries …. Sleeping in a tent with family
to stay warm. Standing by the lake

What a perfect pairing of artists to tell this intergenerational story of a grandfather (Moshom) and his grandson. David Robertson writes with emotion in spare, telling text to describe a visit to Moshom's trapline. The boy has never been, and his grandfather has not been since he was very young. Julie Flett's signature artwork uses an ideal color palette and allows space for thinking and acknowledging the many memories of a happy, fulfilling childhood in the north. This is their second collaboration, following When We Were Alone, HighWater Press, 2016.

It is a long journey. Undertaken to introduce his grandson to his childhood and the trapline that provided for the family, they also visit the house that became the family home when they left a life of trapping. They walk to the school the children attended. 

“Most of the kids only spoke Cree, but at the school all of us had to talk and learn in English.” 

The boy wonders what it was like to move from the trapline to a new place with a school. Quietly, and after careful thought, Moshom has an answer. 

"I learned in both places,’ he says. ‘I just learned different things.

Pahkan means ‘different.

Taking a small boat, they travel toward an island that makes Moshom's eyes shine. It brings back clear memories of the work the family did to ensure a good life, and to provide money for buying what they could not get from the trapline. There are many beautifully shared moments between the two. The child asks, Moshom answers. The child clearly recognizes in his grandfather's demeanor the importance of his memories. 

Back matter includes a note from both author and illustrator, as well as a list of Swampy Cree words which are presented in context at the bottom of many of the book's pages. Pronunciation is also provided. 

Monday, July 26, 2021

The Sleepover and Other Stories, written and illustrated by Sergio Ruzzier. Chronicle Books, Raincoast. 2021. $21.99 ages 4 and up


Yes, Chick? 

Are there kangaroos 
around here?

I've never seen a kangaroo
around here, Chick. 

Can you check under the bed?

Chick, I am sure there are no 
kangaroos under the bed!

I do hope you have met Fox and Chick in their previous adventures: The Party (Chronicle, 2018) and The Quiet Boat Ride (Chronicle, 2019). 

This new book follows the same design, telling three short sweet stories that are full of telling dialogue and quiet humor. Poor Fox is always there to make days better for Chick. He calms fears, teaches what Chick needs to know, and is the best kind of friend any small chick could possibly have. Chick is full of questions and concerns about himself, rarely recognizing that Fox has needs, too. 

Using watercolor panel illustrations, Mr. Ruzzier gives real personality to his two friends. Chick is energetic, inquisitive, and dramatic. Fox is ever tolerant, always helpful, and counterbalances Chick's effervescent personality with quiet confidence and a cool presence.  

These books are perfect for children learning to read independently. They offer everything needed to help them find joy in books. Bravo!       

"And it's not even my birthday. 

It is not your birthday?

No, Fox. My birthday 
is not for a long time.

Well, that is a surprise."                                                                         

Sunday, July 25, 2021

When Lola Visits, written by Michelle Sterling and illustrated by Aaron Asis. Katherine Tegen Books, Harper. 2021. $21.99 ages 4 and up

"It smells like suman steaming on the 
stove for afternoon marienda and tiny
red chilies spilling into sizzling sisig
as Lola lets me stir, reminding me to 
scrape the flavorful bits off the bottom 
of the pan.

Reading this page was only one of the times that I found myself searching for the meaning of unfamiliar-to-me words. That is part of the joy I found in this book. I love learning new things, and am very pleased to have learned about the food of the Philippines. As a grandmother, I very much enjoyed reading about the memories that are a result of every 'Lola' visit. My granddaughters also visit in summer, and it makes me more conscious of what we will do together when they arrive in 3 weeks. 

This Lola always comes in the summer; the first thing she does after arriving is to make mango jam. As the two share daily experiences, the young narrator describes how she knows it is summer. It's all the smells: Lola's soap, what she brings in her old leather suitcase, the food she makes with such love, the chlorine in the pool they visit, new tennis balls, suman (rice cake), sisig (pork and chicken liver), lumpia (spring rolls), Kamayan (family buffet), milkfish and grilled bananas. Summer is also sights and sounds and warm feelings of love. 

"It smells like an unexpected, 
summer rain 

and getting drenched while 
saying goodbye to Lola at the airport.

The house becomes grayer; so does the weather. Soon, it is time for school and 'the last sweet bits of summer'. 

Graceful, textured artwork, done using gouache and digital images, make for a real summer celebration for grandmother and granddaughter. Exquisite, well-chosen language adds joy when reading this book out loud. What summer memories does it conjure for you and your family?                                                                                     

Saturday, July 24, 2021

Keeping the City Going, written and illustrated by Brian Floca. Atheneum Books for Young Children, 2021. $23.99 ages 4 and up


"They're the people on the buses and trains, 
those who keep them moving, 
and those who ride them, too ...  

who are heading out to keep grocery stores open, 
to sell to the city
beans and flour and rice 
and soap and soup and spaghetti ... 

and toilet paper, too."

In his author's note, Brian Floca tells his readers: 

"I have enjoyed sketching the places and people
of New York City since I first moved here, over
twenty years ago now. In the spring of 2020, with 
the arrival of COVID-19, drawing what I saw 
around me in the city took on an additional 
meaning and purpose; it became one small way
of trying to stay oriented in a place that felt
suddenly transformed and unfamiliar, locked 
down and hushed, an Edward Hopper canvas 
come to life." 

In drawing what he was seeing, Mr. Floca turned his attention to the many vehicles that were constantly moving about the city. While the streets were mostly deserted, those vehicles made their way from place to place carrying the people whose essential services were very much needed by everyone dealing with the isolation caused by the pandemic. They were driven by mail carriers, fire fighters, police, transit drivers, food deliverers, health care workers - and so many more. 

They kept the city going. Taxis helped people return after long shifts in hospitals, after grocery trips to buy essentials. Mail trucks brought the packages full of things people needed but could not get out to buy.  So many people risked their health to provide for customers, friends, neighbors. The list of essential workers seems endless, and each is worthy of our thanks for all they did to keep New York and the world working under demanding and stressful circumstances. 

The child narrators watch from their window, taking note of all that is being done to keep them safe and as healthy as possible. In early evenings, they join others in celebrating those who could not stay safe at home. 

"The sounds are low, and then they grow - 
pots BANG! Drums BOOM!
Bells RING! Horns BLOW! 
a racket, a din, and a row!

We join with their clapping, 
we join with a CHEER! 

We hear the city say to us - 
and we say back to the city -
that we are all still here, 
and we are here together.

This is another important book to share with children, and hold on to for the future when we take the time to think back on all the events of the last 18 months. It is a reminder to always celebrate the many essential workers who did so much for all of us, and continue to do so. Created using watercolor, ink, acrylic and gouache, the many spreads are filled with accurate, detailed images of streets, workers, and the plethora of vehicles needed to 'keep the city going'. 

We will remember how COVID affected each one of us, let's not forget the many who made life possible in very trying times. Bravo, Mr. Floca! Let's hope that your stunning book will serve to help us remember this time in history as a memory, rather than an ongoing dilemma.

Friday, July 23, 2021

Swing, written and illustrated by Michael Hall. Greenwillow, Harper. 2020. $21.99 ages 3 and up


"The fourth letter was different. 
Unlike the first three letters, 
who were made up of straight lines,
the fourth letter was round.

I have a collection of Michael Hall's books that started with perfect square (Greenwillow, 2011). In this book he addresses bullying by using four humanlike letters ... L, O, V, and E. It's recess and the four head outside to the swings. L is there first. V arrives, asking to play. L doesn't like where V lives in the alphabet. He rejects the overture, saying the swings are saved for letters from his own neighborhood. 

E is next to ask, and is rejected by V for being a vowel.  When O arrives, the first three are on the swings and about to reject O for being round. Instead, the swinging three get into a pushing match. O takes the last swing. Now, there is a fight for who gets what swing. With no solution evident, O suggests they just swing. Brilliant idea! 

Illustrations are 'composed of painted paper and digitally produced line art and shapes', and work beautifully to spread a message for inclusion. Mr. Hall keeps the reader's focus on the letters with little else on the spreads to distract them. This makes for a great conversation starter in early years classes.                                                                           

Thursday, July 22, 2021

The Old Boat, by Jarrett Pumphrey and Jerome Pumphrey. Norton Young Readers. 2021. $23.95 ages 6 and up


"Far from home, the old boat was cold
and lonely 
and lost.

On a small island, a new sailor turned the tide."

I bought this book because I loved The Old Truck (Norton, 2020). I am so happy that I did; it is another wonderful choice for young readers. It tells the story of a boat's life in a family that loves nature and fishing. The boy eagerly watches while the adult drops a lure into the water. Time spent on the boat together is happy. In shallow water, the boy is aware of the garbage being left on the shore. They travel further from shore. 

As each page is turned, readers will note that the two grow older. Observant readers will see the buildings on the island multiply. The enjoyment of being in deep water together fills the boaters with joy, and provides food. They glory in the sea life that surrounds them ... fish, jellyfish, a whale, rays and dolphins.

The boy becomes a man, fishing alone. Fish are less plentiful, garbage is more evident, and he must travel further and further from home. Following a storm, he is washed ashore. The overturned, sunken boat lies in the shallows with an ever-growing glut of trash. It is a moment that 'turns the tide' for the fisherman. He begins, with others, to clean up the shallows before moving out into deep water and doing the same there. The hard work leaves the boat where it landed in clear water. There, it becomes home to new sea life. 

The final spread shows the man, perhaps now a grandfather, fishing from shore with a small child. 

The illustrations, created using hundreds of stamps and done in earthy tones, carry the story quietly from start to finish. This is a compelling tale of family, love of the sea, changes in the environment over time, and the power that humans have to make real differences to what is happening in their world.                                                                                     

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

wishes, written by Muon Thi Van and illustrated by Victo Ngai.Orchard Books, Scholastic. 2021. $24.99 ages 4 and up

"The light wished that it was brighter.

The dream wished it was longer.

The clock wished 
it was slower.

It has taken me a while, and a lot of readings, to know what I wanted to say about this moving account that describes a refugee's flight from her home in Vietnam to safety. In a series of 'wishes', the author shares how 12 inanimate objects describe the harrowing journey made. 

The family is busy secretly preparing while the child watches. Her dog offers comfort. Their bags packed, the children are dressed in the darkness of night, and final goodbyes are made. The path is long, wishing it were shorter; the boat is small for its desperate passengers,wishing it were bigger; and the sea wishes it were calm. 

Every part of the journey for the refugees is fraught with worry, and great sadness. The mother and her three young children cling to one another, teary and frightened. The days are long and perilous. When they are finally rescued by the Coast Guard, there is HOPE. Only then is the child given a voice:  

"And I wished ... 

I didn't have 
to wish ... 


While the text is emotional and spare, the superb illustrations are filled with the intensity and trauma of each terrifying moment of the journey undertaken. There is no welcoming sunlight until their boat reaches safe waters. Remarkable, and forever etched in memory. 

In back matter, both author and illustrator provide an explanatory note. The author tells of her own family's escape and the voyage they made. She concludes with a wish that people find it in their hearts to help: 

"More refugees are made every day, not only from local violence and persecution, but increasingly from catastrophic natural disasters and climate change effects. It is not always easy to decide whom to help and when. But I think it is easy to open our hearts and to do what we can when we can."                                                                      

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Two Many Birds, written and illustrated by Cindy Derby. Roaring Brook Press, Raincoast. 2020. $25.99 ages 4 and up



Wow! That's a long line of birds waiting to buy a ticket for a spot to perch on a large and empty tree. Once a ticket is purchased the birds head for the tree which sports a sign saying 'Maximum Occupancy 100 birds'. The stage is set. Not only that, they come under the scrutiny of a grumpy, rule-obsessed guard. His command chair tracks the number of birds admitted, keeps birds with 'high hair' off the tree, and allows him to scream a constant stream of "NOs", 

Readers will be hooting. Birds that don't make the cut walk away, dejection written all over them. The tree is, by now, burgeoning with life and squished-in tree branch sitters. And, there are even more signs with rules to live by. When the guard takes a 5-minute lunch break, something incredible happens. The tracker shows an increase in the number of birds now on the tree, causing great consternation for the guard ... and a very LOUD reaction. Armed with a humongous net, he is going to make sure his rules are followed. 

Surprise awaits! A revolt awakens a new understanding and a shared mission to alleviate any over-crowding problems. I love the way Cindy Derby allows bird personalities and stories to become part of the larger story. The speech bubble orders from the guard and the handmade signs are the only reading to be done; the visual literacy is the real treat. One final laugh is NOT to be missed!                                                                                 

Monday, July 19, 2021

The Smile Shop, by Satoshi Kitamura. Peachtree, Douglas & McIntyre. 2020. $23.99 ages 4 and up


"The market is very busy. 
There are so many shops and stalls, 
and such wonderful colors ... 

and tempting smells! 
That apple pie looks tasty.

What power there is for a child when they have their own money to spend! It is the first time such a thing has happened for the young boy who is the center of the reader's attention. He narrates his story with expression, as he wanders the market and describes it through his senses. There is much temptation there for him; he wants to make the right choice. 

When he is bumped by a skateboarder and loses most of his coins in a nearby drain, he feels all the sadness of a lost chance. As luck would have it, he makes his way into a shop with a 'Smile' sign on it. He wonders if the coin he has left might buy him one small smile. The keeper of the shop takes a liking to the boy and his question, offering a free smile. What a change that kind reaction makes for an impressionable young child! 

The illustrations are lovely to see; they are filled with incredible detail and show all of the emotions felt. The colors used reflect the boy's mood as he is dejected by his loss, and then encouraged by the kindness. The spreads show a culturally diverse community, detailed scenes, gentle humor, and the realization that one smile can be a game-changer. A simply told story, with so much to say.                                                                                         

Sunday, July 18, 2021

Wonder Walkers, written and illustrated by Micha Archer. Nancy Paulsen Books, Penguin Random House. 2021. $23.99 ages 3 and up


"Is fog a river's blanket?

Do mountains have bones?
Are forests the mountain's fur? 

I wonder.
Me too."

Kids are always wondering. The two kids in this book are keen to share a 'wonder walk'. I wonder what that is. As they walk together in nature, they share the most amazing scenes. The language used by the author to honor and explore their wondering make for a wondrous read. Their love of the natural world they live in is evident in every question they ask so articulately. 

As readers make their way from one stunning page to the next, they will be encouraged to examine some of their own questions about the world. There is mystery everywhere, and the two wanderers take full note of the beauty they are experiencing together. 


Are branches 
trees' arms? 

The two have done this journey on other days. As their day comes to an end, they ponder the moon from their porch, while clad in pajamas. Their question is a delight. 

Radiant, light-infused artwork done 'in inks and collage, using tissue paper and patterned papers, created with homemade stamps' are sure to capture and hold attention as the book is shared. Joyful, beautiful, and imaginative ... what a wonder! 

Be sure to take the time to hear the questions more than once, allowing readers to focus on the things that make them think seriously about the world outside their windows. What an exceptional book this is! It's going straight onto our 'keeper' shelf, right next to Daniel Finds a Poem (2016and Daniel's Good Day (2019).  

Saturday, July 17, 2021

ESCAPE: One Day We Had to Run, written by Ming & Wah and illustrated by Carmen Vela. Lantana, Lerner Books. Thomas Allen & Son. 2021. $24.99 ages 9 and up


"A warming climate is wreaking havoc on the earth, 
washing away coastlines, and threatening coastal 
cities and islands. In 2007, Ioane Teitiota left the 
Pacific Island of Kiribati for New Zealand. He applied
for a visa to remain there because rising sea levels were 
endangering his home country.

The stories presented in this book, written by twin sisters, are harrowing and hopeful. They happened throughout the world, and date back to 1745. The escape of Bonnie Prince Charlie (Prince Charles Edward Stuart) was precipitated when he did his best to take the throne as Protestants and Catholics fought over who would rule Scotland and England. In order to avoid being captured he disguised himself as 'Betty Burke', a lady's maid. It was his fate to spend the rest of his life in a variety of disguises. 

The tales are set on double-page spreads, headlined by a one word title showing the means of escape for the people involved:



The twelve escapes happened across the world, and range from 1745 through 2007. Following the table of contents which lists the verbs meaning escape in alphabetic order, a world map places and names the escape routes and their dates. Readers will find it helpful as they read of the brave journeys undertaken for many different reasons. Most are made to escape famine, persecution, slavery, climate change, violence, poverty, oppression, and war. 

Each spread focuses on one story; the descriptions are telling and brief, and their final destinations hopeful; the artwork beautifully matches the text and its tone. The will to survive is resolute, and its impact memorable for middle years classrooms where heroes, immigration and refugees are subjects for thoughtful discussion and research.                                                                                   

Friday, July 16, 2021

What Are Little Girls Made Of?: Nursery Rhymes to Empower Young Feminists, written by Jeanne Willis and illustrated by Isabelle Follath. Nosy Crow, Candlewick. Penguin Random House. 2021. $19.99 ages


"Little Miss Muffet
sat on a tuffet
eating her ham and eggs, 
and when a big spider 
then sat down beside her, 
she petted his long, furry legs.

I am a fan of re-imagined literary works when they are done as well as this one. Meant to empower young girls, but accessible to all readers, it is thought-provoking, humorous and a most enjoyable read. In recommending it today, I hold out hope that the intended audience has knowledge of the original nursery rhymes that inspired this new work from the talented and prolific Jeanne Willis. 

The author begins with the title rhyme, including both boys and girls in an uplifting nod to 'sun and rain and heart and brain'.  Moving forward, she gives new meaning to familiar rhymes such as Georgie Porgie, Little Jack Horner, Jack and Jill, Little Miss Muffet ... and so on. There are 17 in all. 

"Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall.
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall. 
The doctor arrived 
and she mended his shell
and dried all his eggy tears
gently as well.

Girls and women are shown to be brave, accomplished, and able to take care of themselves ... always refreshing and welcome. They are at the center of the action, and have a voice in what happens. 

 Ms. Follath's mixed-media illustrations are full of fun, beautifully textured and boldly colored. They offer many charming details of interest. Boys are allowed to be what they want to be as well; a refreshing take on child care and dressing up. 

"Except for little things, much the same - 
that's what boys are made of.

If the children you are sharing this with have not had much experience with traditional nursery rhymes, be sure to have a collection for comparison. What fun that could be!                                                                                 

Thursday, July 15, 2021

Faraway Things, written by Dave Eggers and illustrated by Kelly Murphy. Little, Brown and Company. Hachette, 2021. $23.99 ages 7 and up

"A splotchy dog leaped into the shallow surf
and ran to Lucian, circling him like a tornado. 
Three figures followed and walked with long 
strides up the beach. Lucian stood perfectly still. 
He tried not to be afraid because he had his 
cutlass with him, and just minutes before, he'd 
cut the sun in two.

Lucian is an explorer of the beach near the home he shares with his mother. He loves wandering out there, especially after a storm. He never knows what he might find, and is always in search of 'faraway things'. He likes to see what powerful winds leave ashore. So it is, that one day he finds a cutlass, wrapped in seaweed and lying on the beach. He takes it home, hangs it in his room and dreams of his father. His father, too, had loved such faraway things. 

Lucian spends his days playing with it on the beach, and experiencing a few mishaps. One afternoon soon after he finds it, a wooden ship comes out of the fog, and a rowboat with three passengers paddles to shore. They have questions about the lighthouse that once showed them the way during storms. It turns out their ship is caught on a sandbar because of the darkness. And oh, by the way, his cutlass is missing. 

Poor Lucian! He loves that cutlass. The captain makes a promise to trade the cutlass for anything found in his stateroom. Lucian goes with them back to the ship, and finds something he truly loves. What he does with it is what makes such stories perfect for reading out loud. 

"The captain led Lucian to the stateroom and
opened the delicately decorated double doors. 
Inside, Lucian saw a feast of glittering objects. 
There were hexagon coins and a silver sextant,
a collapsing telescope and a falconer's glove.

Lucian studied the treasures for something to 
replace the cutlass. A dagger? A saber or 

"Choose wisely," the captain said.

Dave Eggers is a prolific and outstanding writer! I am a big fan of his books. He fills this tale with the beauty of the beach and the sea. I have read it aloud more than once and find myself caught up in the language and the metaphors used to bring it to life. Kelly Murphy's stunning artwork admirably matches the tone, the setting, and the beauty to be found in sea and sky. Her front endpapers show the power of the storm; the ones at the back capture the peace of the sea and the warmth of the lighthouse beam. This is a book to be savored; it will find an honored place on our 'keepers' shelf. Of that, there is no doubt.                                                                            

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

The Nature Adventure Book, written by Katie Taylor and illustrated by Lianne Harrison. DK, Penguin Random House. 2021. $18.99 ages 5 and up


"Make a cloud spotter. 

Cut a rectangle from the middle
of some oaktag, decorate it, then 
attach a stick for the handle. Peek 
through the hole. Can you see any 
of the cloud shapes listed below?

On this sky gazing page, readers are told the sky is always changing, given a few challenges and a warning about eye safety when looking up on sunny days, shown illustrations to name the clouds they see in the sky, and encouraged to take time to look closely at those clouds. 

The two-page spread is designed with young readers in mind; it is a quality of the DK brand to make the information provided for readers accessible and entertaining. The table of contents shows that  adventures listed under an intriguing set of chapters: they include adventure skills, nature detective, wild art, and sensory games. In each section, the author suggests 5-6 adventures in nature to try. 

Eager readers will find great variety in the nature experiences suggested. Build a secret shelter, fashion a terrific twig raft, go pond dipping, see the stuff to do with a stick. make leaf creatures or paint pebbles and sort those tiny rocks in patterns. As summer moves forward in high gear, your children will find many ideas here to help them learn more about the world around them, and to try their hand at some very intriguing adventures. Get outside, let curiosity lead you down new paths!                                                                              


Katie's Instagram page is @earlyyearsoutdoors
Check it out to see many innovative and outdoor project ideas.            

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Pablo, written and illustrated by Rascal. Translated by Anthony Shugaar. Gecko Press, Thomas Allen and Son. 2021. $23.99 ages 3 and up


"Since he's a little bit scared, 
Pablo starts with a tiny hole. 

One tiny hole followed by a second tiny hole. 
He looks left. 
He looks right. 
He looks up. 
He looks down. 

Pablo doesn't want to miss a speck 
of the world around him!

Pablo is not as brave as he wants to be. To that end, he makes the decision to hatch one small bit at a time. This allows him to work slowly and surely, with one aim in mind. He needs to be out of his shell. Before beginning the difficult process, he breakfasts on a croissant and a hot chocolate. 

One eye emerges, then another. He is excited to see a new world. Then, a hole on each side of the egg, close to the eyes. He can hear the sounds of a fly, some crows, and the wind. How wonderful! The fifth hole is his beak; now he can smell dirt and flowers. And the materialization continues! When his wings finally develop, he knows he is ready to face the world, with a touch of bravery. 

After some consideration, he comes out of his shell ... while saving one very crucial piece. 

I just want to hug Pablo, and young readers will, too. Can't wait to read this out loud. 

The small black egg on a white background is visually appealing and sure to put full attention on Pablo himself. The counting of the holes, the humor in the artwork, and the evolution of this tiny chick will be appreciated every time it is shared.  

Monday, July 12, 2021

Pirate Stew, written by Neil Gaiman and illustrated by Chris Riddell. Quill Tree Books, Harper. 2020. $24.99 ages 4 and up


"The door was opened. In they came:
A pirate crew. They were not tame.

Now one was fat ... 
... and one was thin.

One had a hankie on her head. 

One played upon the violin
"Fifteen Bad Men upon a Dead
Man's Chest" and suchlike 
pirate ditties."

Do you know anyone who loves a hearty pirate tale? If you do, have I got the book for you. You will not be sorry when you check it out. Take a very close look at the motley crew. 

In a surprise twist, two young children find themselves in the company of a brand-new babysitter. Their parents are off to dinner and a flower show, while insisting the children cannot stay home alone.  

"His hair was gray. His face was scarred. 
Right leg a peg, left hand a hook.

Unimpressed when presented to Long John, they have no idea that he is just the beginning of their pirate adventure. A knock at the door and in pour a diverse and merry band. Nothing quiet or typical  about them.  A pirate queen promises supper; nothing in the fridge appeals to the pirate crew. Leave it to Long John ... why not pirate stew? 

"Pirate Stew! Pirate Stew! 
Pirate Stew for me and you! 

Pirate Stew! Pirate Stew!
 Eat it and you won't be blue.
You can be a pirate too!

The ingredients are the stuff of pirate legend. Amazing language will have readers eewwwing! and oohing! as they read. Cooking it in a treasure chest, and advising the children that it is worth consuming if they want to be pirates, ensures neither will even give it a try. After the pirates finish eating their stew, the adventure ramps up. The family house becomes a gorgeous flying pirate ship; they sail into the night. Sailing above the town, they notice Sally's donut shop and decide to make a stop. Donut delights! Slightly stale makes no difference to the pirates, or for the children. Then, it's time for home. They arrive just as their parents return, hungry and eager to try the pirate stew. NOOOOOO! 

I will leave you to guess what happens next. 

Chris Riddell's pirates, setting, facial expressions, energy, adventure, and hair (oh, that hair!) are endlessly funny and very appealing. Engaging for all, this is a bright and delightful read aloud. 

Sunday, July 11, 2021

Go Be Wonderful, written by Donna Gephart and illustrated by Francesca Chessa. Holiday House, Penguin Random House, 2021. $23.99 ages 3 and up

"When Daisy turned three, Uncle Jay, 
Uncle Danny, and Uncle Michael danced a
jiggly jig and crooned, "Go be wonderful." 

And she was. 

She used the potty."

For her whole life Daisy has been encouraged to "go be wonderful" by those who love her dearly. No matter what she does, she impresses. She cries and eats, poops and sleeps, and plays innumerable games of 'Peekaboo'. She's a dancer, a potty-goer, a tantrum-thrower. As each birthday comes and goes, Daisy grows and prospers, and remains much-loved by the many adults in her life. They expect her to be 'wonderful' and she is. 

Their excitement and love follow her from one adventure to the next, year after year. Then, it is time for school. As they accompany her there, they encourage her to show her stuff. Only then, does Daisy begin to doubt herself. 

"What if she put her brand-new lunch
box in the wrong place? 

What if she put it in the right place,
but no one liked her? 

What if she got lost on her way 
to the bathroom? 

What if she cried because she 
missed Mr. Bonkers?

Such a head full of worries ... poor Daisy. What surprises await! 

The multimedia artwork introduces young readers to Daisy and her amazing and empowering community of family and friends. Exuberant, colorful illustrations help to tell her whole story with each page turn. School creates some concern for her, as everything new is wont to do. It is no surprise at the end of the day that the confidence instilled by those who love her hold her in good stead to deal with whatever comes her way. Bravo, Daisy! 

Saturday, July 10, 2021

Pawcasso, written and illustrated by Remy Lai. Henry Holt and Company, Macmillan. Raincoast, 2021. $19.99 ages 8 and up


"The traffic around here can get busy. 

Pawcasso is a genius! He knows how 
to use the pedestrian crossing! 

Would you let the dog go with a 
warning? Joe will let her parents know.

And I'll leash him! Please let him go. 

Okay, I'm letting him go this time. 
The next time I see him off-leash ... 
... he will go to the pound!

As summer vacation begins, Jo is feeling very lonely. When she sees a dog walk past her carrying a shopping basket, she is surprised and curious. She follows him, and watches as he stops at a variety of stores and is given whatever is on his shopping list. How can that be? At the last place left to shop, some of Jo's schoolmates see her and assume the dog is hers. She tries to dissuade them, but they don't listen to what she is saying. 

Wanting to make new friends, Jo allows them to believe the dog is hers. They want to use the dog as a model in their art class; and she tells them his name is Pawcasso. As the community at large becomes more and more interested in the 'shopping dog', the deception compounds. Jo is uncomfortable with the lies, but unsure of a way out. 

The artwork engages readers with the story. The bold colors, the cast of characters, Pawcasso's personality and prowess, the expressions always on display, and the unfolding events hold attention and carry readers forward. In the end, though telling the truth causes hurt and embarrassment, it is the right thing to do and results in a few surprises.  

Oh, and the dog? He's a wonder!                                                                                  

Friday, July 9, 2021

Darling Baby, by Maira Kalman.Little, Brown and Company, Hachette. 2021. $23.99 ages 3 and up

"Today we saw a 
HOLE in the GRASS. 

Do you know how it got there? 

The Bunny dug it. I am pretty
sure because bunnies live in 

What a wonderful baby gift for a new grandparent! Maira Kalman's journal notes reflect on summer days spent with her grandchild. The moments are priceless in terms of the warmth of memory, and beautifully described by this accomplished writer. She captures these moments in word and picture with tremendous appeal and charm. 

As she shares her memories, she encourages the child, who cannot yet walk, to be aware of all that surrounds the two; to take in the sights and sounds, the smells and colors; to watch with abandon the world as it is. The vivid colors are a reminder of the beauty they share together on their walks. The book swells the love felt between a grandparent and a grandchild. 

"The fish. 
     The birds. 
         The bunnies. 
  The sun. The stars. 
All of these things 
It was fine to 
            see them
            without you. 
                  But not the SAME.

Thursday, July 8, 2021

Ten Little Dumplings, words by Larissa Fan and illustrated by Cindy Wume. tundra, Penguin Random House. 2021. $21.99 ages 5 and up


"Ten little dumplings
Their brushstrokes flow like music. 

And the ten little dumplings ... 
Grew into ten fine men. 
How proud their parents were! 
All of their sons successful and respected.

How fortunate for a family in Taiwan to be blessed with ten sons - and one daughter. That daughter is barely recognized as a part of the family. Sons have more value in this Chinese culture as they carry the family name forward. All talk is about the fine boys, called 'little dumplings' by their very pleased parents. The play together, eat together, explore together, celebrate together. Their days and nights follow a pattern of finding peaceful sleep, bringing good luck, excelling at school, and growing up to be fine and respected members of society. 

Only then does the narrator introduce herself as having been there all along. Attentive listeners are sure to have noticed her, although she is often obscured by a variety of objects. Her orange hat can always be found, if one looks carefully. It turns out that, while she keeps herself in the background, she has been there all along. 

"I listened. 
I studied. 
I learned. 
I discovered I had my own talent.
And so I made my way in the world.

Rich visual literacy is found in abundance on every spread. Readers will be excited to go back and find the girl there. Each of the boys is given a unique personality in the art, and the young girl blends in beautifully. 

Ms. Tan describes this book as her 'first attempt to reveal another viewpoint to a traditional tale, to write in someone who has been left out.'

Today she shares her joy at being the parent to a daughter ... her own little dumpling. Lucky she is.                                                                                    

Wednesday, July 7, 2021

On the Other Side of the Forest, written by Nadine Robert and illustrated by Gerard Dubois. Translated by Paula Ayer. Greysone KIds, 2021. $24.95 ages

"When the sun comes up, even more 
villagers than yesterday are waiting
in front of our house, with even more 

Our tower is getting tall. 
"Soon we'll be able to see 
to the other side of the forest!"
Dad says excitedly, wiping his 

A young rabbit narrates this story, immediately letting the reader know that he lives with his father and their dog 'in the middle of a clearing surrounded by a big forest'. People fear the forest for what might live there. Though his dad doesn't believe the stories he is told, he has always wanted to know what is on the other side. 

One day, his introspective father comes up with an exciting idea; they are going to build a tower so they can finally discover what is on the other side. How? Dad explains and then moves to action. First, he uses their newly-milled grain to make some dough for bread. The aroma from the baked bread attracts a neighbor. Dad agrees to exchange a loaf for four large stones. A long line of neighbors carrying stones forms. When the bread is gone, father and son begin their work. 

Building a tower is hard and tiring work, especially when combined with bread baking at night. Dad is encouraged by the response of the community. The stone pile grows, as does the tower to help them see to the other side. Father and son work together, and villagers add to their rock pile. It won't be long until is is high enough. When a rain storm stops bread production and ruins the tower, Dad is done! 

The villagers are not; they use their collective strength and community spirit to help complete the tower while Dad returns the favor with a bounty of bread. The completion of the tower, and the excited climb to the top results in a huge surprise! 

With only a touch of high drama, Ms, Robert offers a heartwarming tale of family, community, and cooperation. Impressive artwork strengthens the telling with images of the forest setting, the hard work, and the action of the community as they assist a friend in trying to bring a 'magnificent' idea to fruition.   


Tuesday, July 6, 2021

The Three Billy Goats Gruff: The Full Story, written by Richard Jackson and illustrated by Katherine Tillotson. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2020. $23.99 ages 4 and up


"I'll eat you, and him
too," says Troll
his stomach churning something ferocious ....
And he reaches two scaly paws upward
through the boards of the bridge. 

But Middle Billy slips-slides past, 
just out of Troll's long reach.

I have always loved to read and collect fairy tale retellings. I fear today that we have many young children who have never heard any fairy tales. One of our favorite reads two years ago, when my granddaughters visited, was Jerry Pinkney's Three Billy Goats Gruff (Little, Brown, 2017). We read it almost every night at bedtime, and spent endless time looking carefully at the many details on each spread. 

This year, if they can visit again, we will be able to compare it with this new version. They will see some similarities in the telling; they will find many differences in the visual interpretation. That is what is fun when sharing various versions of the same story. 

The billy goat brothers in this story have found fame because of a 'loudmouth bully boy' who lives under the bridge that connects the mountain on their side of the river to their cousin's side where grass is abundant. The loudmouth Troll is fearsome. 

"Just look at him:


toes curled around stones, 

sapling sprouting

from his head and back.

And his breath? 


As happens, the billy goats are willing to take a chance at getting to the other side. The Troll is salivating as he awaits their arrival at the bridge. He gets himself ready. He is not disappointed. Little Billy Goat Gruff goes first, pleading a need to see his cousins. The goat is quick; the troll is not. Immediately following is Middle Billy, who takes place on the bridge; he is also on his way for a family visit. As soon as he makes it across, Big Billy begins his own trip-trapping! Undaunted by Troll's threats, BB uses his strength and bravado to send Troll flying.

Uff - da!

As they join their cousins in the lush mountain grass on their side of the river, the three are happy to relate their own version of what it took for each of them to get to where they are now. 

The plot remains the same; the language used to tell it is rich, lively, and personal for the reader. Young listeners will love the humor, the rhythm of the language, the repetitive words, and abundant alliteration penned to enhance the story. Ms. Tillotson complements the tone and the energy explored in this story with impressive collage artwork. Changing perspectives attract particular attention.                                                                               

Monday, July 5, 2021

Moose, Goose, and Mouse, by Mordicai Gerstein and Jeff Mack. Holiday House, Penguin Random House. 2021. $24.99 ages 4 and up


"Moose, Goose, and Mouse
took a train in the rain 
to look for a house. 

They went in the caboose. 

"I like this caboose,"
said Moose and Mouse.
"Me, too," said Goose.

The house that Moose, Goose and Mouse live in leaves much to be desired. It's moist and moldy, aged and frigid. They need to find a new one. Their search begins a wonderful adventure. They know what they want - each wanting something important to them. A train is their mode of transportation for the search. The caboose is a much-appreciated spot for travel. At least until it uncouples from the engine and sends them on a different ride altogether! 

The runaway car provides thrills, speed and much excitement for the three friends ... until they feel ill, and hit a tree. Turns out they have landed in the perfect spot, with an ideal abode. It has every single they were wanting. 

"Moose, Goose, and Mouse
have a SUNNY, FUNNY, 
loose caboose for a house ... 
with a BUNNY! 

 Early readers will love the simple plot, the rhythmic telling, and the zaniness that is Mordicai Gerstein's final tale. The illustrations offer boldly colored characters, a terrific setting, plenty of action, and were created collaboratively in a brand new style for the much-admired author. A concluding note explains the process and the development of that style in the final months of Mr. Gerstein's full life. 

Kudos to Mr. Mack for finishing the project, and allowing readers to meet characters they will long to meet again. SO MUCH FUN!