First, an apology for being offline for so long. My family has encountered some difficulties this spring, and writing about books had to take a backseat. I'll continue this slowdown into summer, but still hope to update with what my kids and I have been reading, so that you can enjoy some new books, too!
We're still reading stacks of picture books, and five fictional stories really stand out. Get your Amazon cart or your library list ready ...
Bunny Roo, I Love You by Melissa Marr and Teagan White
I cannot get enough of the beautiful watercolor and gouache artwork that makes up this treasure of a picture book. Even the text is hand-lettered, and it's just as yummy as the pictures. The color palette is vintage and folksy and I just loved poring over the pages and watching as the color scheme changed from page spread to page spread. I really want all of them up on a wall, framed!
This is a sweet poetic story, in which the author compares her baby to many different young animals:
When I met you, you were small and trembling, and I thought you might be a little bunny.
I held you close so you were warm.
When I tried to put you down, you kicked and squirmed, and I thought you might be a lost kangaroo ...
The story goes on to compare the unknown baby to many other creatures, until we read:
Then you smiles, and I knew ...
You are not a bunny-roo-lizard-wolf-kitten-piggy. You are my baby.
We're left first with a baby bouncing on his human mama's knee, and then cuddled sleeping in perfect peace under a blanket outside. This book would make a perfect gift for a new mother or baby, and I love that it is worded so that it could be given to an adoptive family, as well. I also found it interesting that my rough and tumble six-year-old boy enjoyed reading this one so much, which I believe means its more than just a sweet gift book, but one that you'll enjoy reading again and again.
Yard Sale by Eve Bunting and Lauren Castillo
You're probably familiar with Eve Bunting who has been penning quality picture books for decades. Her publications are into the hundreds. Lauren Castillo is a supremely talented picture book artist, who very recently won a coveted Caldecott Honor for her illustrations in Nana in the City. When I found out these two were collaborating, I was excited! Yard Sale is a moving, important work. In it we meet a young girl who is taking part in a sale as her family downsizes. It quickly becomes apparent that this is a change forced by economic necessity, rather than choice. Bunting deftly expresses the girl's fear, confusion, and sadness at seeing her possessions carted away. At the same time, her parents are able to express their own sadness in a way that reassures the girl that family matters more than any piece of furniture. My sensitive almost-10-year-old was deeply touched by this book. I think it can be used both to comfort kids going through difficult change and to promote empathy in others. Castillo's amazing watercolors add so much emotion to this important tale, which all kids will benefit from reading.
Mama Seeton's Whistle by Jerry Spinelli and LeUyen Pham
I'm pretty sure I've mentioned how much I adore LeUyen Pham's picture books, and this one is no exception to her magnificent talent. I could look at the ink and watercolor depictions of family and community over and over in this lovely book. On top of that, we're blessed with Newbery-Award winner Jerry Spinelli's prodigious storytelling talent, which makes for an excellent book perfect for any collection. Mama Seeton was a real neighbor of Spinelli's during his childhood, and it's clear from the illustrations that the story begins many decades past. Mama Seeton uses a special whistle to gather her own children from the neighborhood at dinner time. We get to watch as the Seeton family grows in size and as the children grow up. When the kids become grown-ups, they head out of middle America to seek their own adventures. While Mama enjoys talking with them through letters and phone calls, things just aren't the same. Then one day she tries her old whistle out, and all of her grown children come for a visit. Mama Seeton's whistle carries on as her children use it to call their own children home. Mama's hair has turned white with old age, and her family has become more diverse with the addition of a new generation. I found this story heartwarming, and really enjoyed Pham's careful research to add details to contribute to the authentic feel, such as a 1965 Chevy, and some hippyish clothing. This is a book that kids will love to look at repeatedly, both because of the detailed illustrations and because Spinelli is such a talented storyteller.
Stick and Stone by Beth Ferry and Tom Lichtenheld
This is my absolute favorite new picture book of the spring! Tom Lichtenheld brings a sweet story of friendship to life with his trademark comic-style illustrations. Beth Ferry is new to the picture book scene, and I'm impressed with her ability to tell a family profound story while keeping it simple, sweet, and funny. Young kids will enjoy watching Stick and Stone as the lift each other up, compliment one another, and realize that only together are they a "perfect 10." This is an important tale about friendship, having each other's backs, and self-confidence. My son has asked me to read it to him many, many times!
It's Only Stanley by Jon Agee
Jon Agee's ascerbic wit and cartoon talent are in top form in It's Only Stanley, one of those rare picture books that is hilariously absurd enough for both kids and adults to enjoy. Stanley is a hound dog who is enraptured by the moon. He keeps waking his family up at all hours of the night doing strange (and loud) things like fixing an oil tank, making catfish stew, and clearing the bathtub drain. Just as the kids and parents can't take one more wake-up, a huge KAPOW throws everyone out of bed. It turns out that Stanley was really turning the house into a spaceship because there is a cute little pink alien dog on the moon whom he just can't resist. We've read this story over and over the past few months and it still seems just as funny as it did upon first perusal. Kids will love figuring out what Stanley's up to before his family does.
I have a large pile of non-fiction picture books to share with you next, as well as parts two and three of the 21 chapter books you don't want your 8-12 year old to miss this year! Hope to be back soon. Meantime, check these wonderful books (above) out!
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