• Perfect

    by Nicola Davies, illustrated by Cathy Fisher
    Graffeg, 2017
    Originally published in Wales.

    A tender story of a boy who finds he cannot love his baby sister when she arrives and his struggle to find his way to do so.

    Another rich, moving story by Nicola Davies.  We learn about the boy through his love of swifts nested in the roof above his attic bedroom.  He’s a deep, caring boy.  He imagined  “racing and chasing, screaming with laughter and delight” with his baby sister when she came home, but, instead she lay quite still. Sad, he went outside, alone, and cried for his loss.  All summer long he couldn’t love his sister, no matter how hard he tried. He found solace in watching the swifts.

    Then one day he found a baby swift on the ground. He picked it up and stretched out its wings and legs.  “Perhaps, I thought, it only needs a little help.”  He took it to his attic room and lifted it to the sky and it flew away.  He turned to his sister’s crib and thought, “Perhaps, … she only needs a little help.”  He picked her up, went outside to lay on the grass and told her of all his dreams of them together.

    The illustrations show the emotions surrounding each scene: outside, inside, in his dreams.  In this dark time for the boy, blackness shrouds many pages of soft colors depicting his emotions.  Beautiful images.

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  • You’re Safe With Me

    You’re Safe With Me 
    by Chitra Soundar, illustrated by Poonam Mistry
    Lantana Publishing, 2018

    The positive messages and story are perfect for this bedtime book, but it was the cover’s detailed India-styled drawings that pulled me in. Each page is beautifully illustrated with rich colors and details.  I had to slow down and carefully study each one so I wouldn’t miss the nuances of their story.

    The story itself takes place in an Indian forest at night. Night sounds for little ones are normal and the baby animals sleep through them.  But when a storm passes through, the new night sounds frighten the young animals. Mama Elephant walks through the forest, comforting each animal.  In a lyrical voice, she explains what each noise means.  For instance:

    Swish-swish! The trees moved.  Ooh-Ooh! The wind moaned.  The little animals  woke up and whimpered.

    “Don’t worry about the wind,” whispered Mama Elephant.  “He’s an old friend of the forest.  He brings us seeds from faraway lands.”

    Mama Elephant reassures each animal of the thunder, lightning, the waters in the river and other sounds.  Her explanations cleverly introduce nature’s cycles and explain how each sound supports their forest.

    The positive, lyrically-written story with its stunning illustrations make this a book that will reassure its readers.

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  • The Rough Patch











    The Rough Patch
    by Brian Lies
    Greenwillow Books, 2018

    Evan and his dog did everything together, until the unspeakable happened.  His dog passed. Evan acted out his emotions.  He ripped apart his garden that he and his dog once shared and he let weeds grow in the garden’s place. Evan’s anger shows up on every page, until…

    In minimal words and in illustrations that clearly show the emotions one feels when someone close passes, we watch Evan struggle with his emotions.  Half the story is in the illustrations.  A comforting book for those who have lost a pet.

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  • Can I Be Your Dog?

    Can I Be Your Dog?
    by Troy Cummings
    Random House, 2018

    ARFY, a mutt living in a box near Butternut Streets, sends a letter to each home/business on the street asking if he can be their dog. He cleverly targets each letter specifically to the family/business inside.  At the yellow house, he shares he is potty trained, has his own squeaky bone and is willing to work with them on their pet cat.  At the fire station, he offers to fetch boots and claims he knows his way around all the fire hydrants.  Desperate, he even tries the dump, but is told to get lost.

    Then, one morning, he wakes up with a letter addressed to him!  Who could it be from?  A great surprise ending.

    The story completely tugs at the reader’s heart, as ARFY tries so hard to find himself a home.

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  • Lucy and the String

    Lucy and the String
    by Vanessa Roeder
    Dial Books for Young Readers, 2018

    Illustrated in black and white drawings, with generous splashes of red string woven in, we meet a curious and clever Lucy.  A seamstress, she sees a string on the ground and, of course, pulls it.  And pulls it until she finds Hank—with a bear’s bare bottom—at the end of it.  Hank’s not so happy.  Lucy tries to cheer him up and cover him up, but he’s not impressed.  After many attempts she finds something that Hank likes, but when she cuts the string, to cut him loose, something even worse happens.  Find out how this friendship story, with a lot of loose ends, is sewn up.

    Lucy and the String is written in a playful, poetic voice.  The author/illustrator knows just how to keep the tension and mystery going through the entire drama.

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  • Hannah’s Tall Oder, An A to Z Sandwich

    Hannah’s Tall Oder, An A to Z Sandwich
    by Linda Vander Heyden,
    illustrated by Kayla Harren
    Sleeping Bear Press, 2018

    Add together a spunky girl, humor and rollicking rhyme and you’ll get a read-aloud delight in Hannah’s Tall Order!

    Young Hanna walks into McDougal’s and orders a sandwich with 26 ingredients from A to Z—literally!

    Green peppers,” said Hannah.  “Sliced thin, if you please. And drizzle on lots of sweet honey from bees.”

    Extra humor is added in the illustrations, as Hannah’s monster sandwich grows and grows and the sandwich maker gets more and more frazzled as Hannah continues her list of items she wants included, and the other customers get more and more amazed and alarmed!

    And this book even ends with the funniest twist—which I won’t share.  You must read this book to appreciate all its humor.  A guaranteed kid-pleaser.

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  • Neema’s Reason to Smile

    Neema’s Reason to Smile
    by Patricia Newman, illustrated by Mehrdokht Amini
    Lightswitch Learning, 2018

    Author Patricia Newman cleverly weaves Africa into every scene in her story, Neema’s Reason to Smile.  From elephants taking mud baths, she introduces Africa culture with descriptions that include, “…my bare feet trace the dusty path that unwinds like a cheetah’s tail…” and “A thought buzzes like a mosquito.”   Newman also shows how the whole village supports Neema’s dream.

    In this story, Neema wants more than anything to go to school, but she and her mama don’t have enough money.  Everyday Neema sells fruit to drop a coin or two into her dream basket.  One day she sees a girl running by in a school uniform. Excited there might be a new school she could attend, she follows the girl, but several times she stops to sell fruit and loses sight of the girl.  Neema persists everyday she goes to market until she finally arrives at the school.  Her dream met, she assigns a new dream to her basket.

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  • Hiznobyuti










    by Claude Ponti
    Archipelago Books, 2018
    translated from the French

    A fantasy story about Hiznobyuti (he’s no beauty), a young creature whose parents pushed him away because he was different.  But the creature had a great imagination and a yearning to be connected with his family despite their faults.  To survive his family, he befriended Martin Clock and lived beneath the kitchen sink.

    Here is where his adventures began. He befriended elephants, witches and trees until he learned to communophone (connect with others) and also learned someone on another planet needed him. He and Martin Clock planted a mountain and climbed into outer space where he helped another planet.

    When Hiznobyuti returned to earth, he found his home in ruins and his family in despair.  Nothing had gone right for them since they pushed away Hiznobyuti.  But everything got better when Hiznobyuti returned, (forgave his family) and helped them.

    This story is rich with symbolism that speaks to its readers’ inner child.  Unlike most ‘thin’ stories published in America, this French story is thick with fantasy plot lines, compelling illustrations, and monster creatures–perfect to spark a child’s imagination and keep the pages turning.

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  • Mother Ghost: Nursery Rhymes for Little Monsters

    Mother Ghost: Nursery Rhymes for Little Monsters 
    by Rachel Kolar, illustrated by Roland Garrigue
    Sleeping Bear Press

    This brilliant collection of nursery rhymes for young Halloween readers will keep pages turning and laughter rolling.  In What Are Little Bats Made Of?, readers explore what little bats and little ghouls are made of.  Little imaginations will run wild in Mary Had a Little Ghost and run creepy in Zombie Miss Muffet.  But what happens in Sing a Song of Witches, when the blackbirds attack the witch?

    Geared for the youngest readers, humor is woven in with the spooky, as in Mary, Mary, Tall and Scary:

    Mary, Mary, tall and scary,
    How does your graveyard grow?
    With buried bones and carved gray stones
    And little ghosts all in a row.

    Illustrations are done in night darks and spooky purples to support the scary poem re-writes.  They often tell another story beyond the re-written one, as when the dog in Old Mother Hubbard hilariously runs away with arm and hand bones.

    Those who love scary Halloweens will love Mother Ghost.

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  • Old Dog Baby Baby

    Old Dog Baby Baby
    by Julie Fogliano, illustrated by Chris Raschka
    Roaring Brook Press, 2018

    A beautiful story of an encounter between an old family dog and a crawling baby. Rendered in sparse rhyme alongside loose, color-splashed drawings, reader and listener will remember their first encounter with another living creature.  Baby’s curiosity pokes, squeezes, peeks and spies in old dog’s parts, while dog patently allows the baby to explore.  They roll together on the kitchen floor until they are all worn out.

    A precious story, perfect for naptime.

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