Love

Love
by Matt De La Pena, illustrated by Loren Long
P. Putnam’s Sons, 2018

Award winning Matt De La Pena captures the essence of love shared between people in each verse in his book, Love. And illustrator Loren Long expands and enriches each page with his own scenes showing love, like when a child offer’s his hot dog to an older gentle with crutches or a father and daughter dancing on the roof of their trailer.  The book is chock full of love throughout. In bright, glorious colors and soft, poetic descriptions, readers, without knowing, absorb multiple examples of love on each page. Some scenes are endearing, some are regular, like playing in the streets. Some are unhappy, like when there’s an argument.  Love depicts a wide array of moments of love among family, friends and neighbors.

“Your loved ones will stand there like
puddles beneath their umbrellas, …”

“A love that wakes at dawn and
rides to work on the bus.”

Rendered in poetry and colorful action scenes that often jump off the page, Love will expand a reader’s understanding and vocabulary about love.

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Before She Was Harriet

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Before She Was Harriet
by Lesa Cline-Ransome, illustrated by James E. Ransome
Holiday House, 2017

A brilliantly told story that introduces Harriet Tubman, best known as a Conductor in the  Underground Railroad.  Written in brief, open verse, the story opens with her twilight years, and works its way back to when Harriet worked as a suffragist, when she was “General Tubman”, Union Spy, and the many roles she played in history.

“a wisp of a woman
with the courage
of a lion.”

Illustrated in loose, yet vivid, colors, one can ‘feel’ her story.  The book will fuel a curiosity in readers to want to know more about this American hero.

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Hu Wan and the Sleeping Dragon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hu Wan and the Sleeping Dragon
by Judy Young, illustrated by Jordi Solano
Sleeping Bear Press, 2018

Hu Wan, a poor Chinese peasant boy, lives with his grandfather who is old and becomes very close to dying. When the Chinese Emperor dies and his young son becomes the new Emperor, gifts are requested to cheer him up.  Hu Wan knows how sad he was when his grandfather almost died and takes his first gourd he has shaped into a cricket cage to the new Emperor as a gift. He humbly sets it on a table with very expensive gifts others had brought.  He is most surprised when a guard shows up and learns the new Emperor enjoyed the cricket’s song and requests more gourd cricket cages, for which he will be paid generously.

A wonderful, heart-felt story showing how being yourself and doing what you do best is rewarded.

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The Class

The Class
by Boni Ashburn, illustrated by Kimberly Gee
Beach Lane Books, 2016

Shared in a lyrical voice, The Class shares how 20 different children prepare for their first day of class.  The illustrations show 20 different homes, 20 different families, 20 different personalities and 20 different responses to school’s first day.  Illustrator Kimberly Gee had to use a spreadsheet to keep everyone in the correct clothes, with consistent personalities and family members.  Nearly every reader will share something in common with some of the kids.  It’s fun to follow one child at a time through the book to see what their experience was like; it’s like a big puzzle. It can easily be used as a primer to teach about emotions they may experience on their upcoming first day, and how they might feel in class with 20 kids all day.

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Let’s Clap, Jump, Sing & Shout; Dance, Spin & Turn it Out!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



Let’s Clap, Jump, Sing & Shout; Dance, Spin & Turn it Out!

Games, Songs & Stories from an African American Childhood
collected by Patricia C. McKissack, illustrated by Brian Pinkney
Schwartz & Wade Books, 2017

“Our earliest toys are our hands, feet, and voices,” says Patricia C. McKassack who collected dozens of hand clap songs and jump rope rhymes, hymns, parables and even performance pieces inspired by African American writers.  Each one comes with a history, some Patricia’s history and most others of where and when they came from or how they came to be.

Her research shows that Aesop is thought to be an Afro-Greek storyteller who lived as a slave more than twenty-five hundred years ago.  The book shares how original songs were reshaped while people were in slavery.  Spirituals originated in the fields and slave quarters of the plantation South.  She writes how the songs came to be written down and are still enjoyed today, songs like Joshua Fought the Battle of Jericho.  The song, Follow the Drinking Gourd, was taught to runaways to help lead them to freedom.

A rich collection of history brought together in one book.

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Take Heart, My Child, A Mother’s Dream

Take Heart, My Child, A Mother’s Dream
by Ainsley Earhardt, illustrated by Jaime Kim
Simon & Schuster, 2016

A beautiful book for a child or even an adult going through tough times and needs inspiration.

Written with a soft, lyrical rhyme, the story is a mother’s words to her daughter.  It opens wide the universe with loving affirmations, insights, encouragement and inspiring images. A gentle story: we float on a butterfly sea, run up to a polka-dot tree, and dream in a moon made of flowers.

“May you strive to be happy
Change your course if you’re not
Embrace the world’s colors
Colors others forgot.”

A comforting story illustrated with inspiring images.

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The Want Monsters and How They Stopped Ruling My World

The Want Monsters and How They Stopped Ruling My World
by Chelo Manchego
Shambhala Publications, Inc, 2017

I usually shy away from stories with obvious ‘lessons’ in them, but this one kept me turning the pages to see how it ended.  Partially the words, and I think, partially the unusual drawings.

We begin with an odd-looking boy providing a brief introduction to Want Monsters and how much trouble they can cause. Then we meet Oskar, the boy’s Want Monster.  When the boy eats one cupcake, Oskar makes the boy eat four more, and the boy gets sick. Oskar wears a crown all the time to get attention.  The boy doesn’t like all of Oskar’s antics.  A caterpillar shares a few words of wisdom and the boy decides to “keep minding my day” until Oskar’s demands go away. Each time the boy keeps minding his own day, even when the Want Monster throws a tantrum. Eventually, the Want Monster begins to get smaller. The boy redirects Oskar’s attention to wanting ‘kindness’ and ‘sharing’.  Eventually the boy loves his tiny Want Monster and the Want Monster loves him back.

Illustrated in simple, child-like drawings with lots of color, the pages take the reader into the boy’s world where he grows wiser and stronger.

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Read more reviews on Amazon and purchase.

Flashlight Night

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Flashlight Night
by Matt Forrest Esenwine, illustrated by Fred Koehler
Boyds Mills Press, 2017

A story for those who dare to adventure. The words, done in rhyme, set up the ‘scare’ and the illustrations keep readers turning the pages to see what is next, imagining what it might be like for them.

In this story, a brother, sister and their little brother are outside in their treehouse at night. The older brother uses the light to make everything appear scarier, leaving the rest to the others’ imaginations. The flashlight,

“leads you past old post and rail
alongside a long-forgotten trail
into woods no others dare,
for fear of what is waiting there.”

This story’s action takes place outside the treehouse.  Illustrations show what could be in the shadows, like tigers.  They explore water, underbrush, walls and halls where wolves and lions and skulls and bones might lurk. They travel to foreign shores, where pirates and octopi threaten the trio.

After the scary stories are shared, we see the trio in the tree house and it’s lights out.  In the shadows we see the little brother smiling and the tiger below preparing itself for another adventure. While the story threatens danger, the characters are always safe.

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Little Excavator

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Little Excavator
by Anna Dewdney
Viking, 2017

Written in rhyme, big rigs drive through town to a new project they’ll undertake:

Here come the BIG RIGS,
rolling down the street.
Thumpa-thumpa bumpa-bumpa
BEEP BEEP BEEP!

Little Excavator is brought along, for his special job. The dozer knocks down walls, but when Little Excavator tries, he falls.  Loader lifts trash into a truck, but when Little Excavator tries, he falls.  No matter how hard he tries, he just isn’t big enough to help.  The Big Rig tell him when he grows up he can help.  But for the last part of the project, all the Big Rigs are just too big, and Little Excavator gets to shine.

A fun read, lots of rhyme and onomatopoeias makes this an interactive book where the youngest can ‘read’ all the sounds!

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When We Were Alone

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When We Were Alone
by David A. Robertson, illustrated by Julie Flett
Highwater Press, 2016

This story introduces in simple terms how (white) governments treated Indigenous families, trying to make everyone the same.  Her kokom shares with Nosisim how the government took away the colors they wore and made everyone wear a black and white uniforms. How they cut their long hair short and did not allow them to speak their native language.  Using the same basic story structure between Nosisim and her kokom, each item removed is introduced and ends with how things are now.  This is a book where the meaning of what was removed will grow as the child grows.  To further emphasize the meaning, the illustrations of the items being removed are done in blacks and whites, where the illustrations of where they have their items are done in colors.

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