It’s that time again and I’m happy to share another baker’s dozen of 2017 picture books. These are all recent releases from a wide variety of publishing houses. My brief first impressions are jotted down beside each cover, but I’m sure you’ll agree these thirteen books are all worth a look. Here they are in alphabetical order.
The Antlered Ship was written by Dashka Slater and illustrated by Terry Fan and Eric Fan; published by Beach Lane Books. How can you miss with a philosophical fox named Marco who is in search of answers to life’s big questions? No one else seems to share his intellectual inquisitiveness, but in the end he finds what he needs most, friendship. The Fan brothers’ dreamy illustrations are exquisitely detailed with a mix of pen and pencil and then colored digitally. You’ll definitely want to be onboard for this ship’s voyage!
Arturo and the Bienvenido Feast was written by Anne Broyles and illustrated by K. E. Lewis; published by Pelican Press. This is a lovely follow up to the first award-winning Arturo book. The complete story is told in English as well as in Spanish. I love Arturo’s determination and resourcefulness in creating a surprise for his family. His wonderful connection with his grandmother is believable and enviable. Bright cheerful illustrations bring warmth and charm to the well-written text. Illustrated recipes and glossary are a bonus! Dogosaurus Rex was written by Anna Staniszewski and illustrated by Kevin Hawkes; published by Henry Holt & Co. At first glance this seemed like a long overdue mashup of two popular books from days gone by: Danny and the Dinosaur and Clifford the Big Red Dog. Nevertheless, this fresh take is well written with wonderful illustrations and makes a humorous read aloud. Sure to be a favorite with dinosaur fans!
Grandmother Thorn was written by Katey Howes and illustrated by Rebecca Hahn; published by Ripple Grove Press. This folktale style story is a great reminder of how unexpected beauty can sometimes rise out of a controlled situation when you let down your guard. The stunning pictures were painted, sewn, and crafted by hand with wonderful details. The main character meticulously tends her property until she finally meets her match in her battle with a stubborn root. The pages of this gorgeous book are worth studying again and again.
I Have a Balloon was written by newcomer Ariel Bernstein and illustrated by Scott Magoon; published by Paula Wiseman Books. The humorous back and forth dialogue between Owl and Monkey is reminiscent of Willems’ popular Elephant & Piggy books. I got a kick out of the inside flap which says Spoiler Alert: This is NOT a book about sharing. The expressive digitally rendered illustrations are adorable and the surprise ending to this tightly paced book of few words is surely worth a look!
The Mermaid was written and illustrated by Jan Brett; published by G. P. Putnam. This fun twist on Goldilocks and the Three bears (except this time around, a mermaid and three octopuses) will be very popular with fans of this talented author/illustrator. As always, Brett’s decorative storytelling fills up the borders of each page adding more layers to the tale. Long before I had any of my own work published I used to exchange letters with Jan (regarding her work, as did many others) and I’ll never forget her generous nature in personalizing her responses. It’s always a treat to see a new book of hers released. Paintings are done in watercolor and gouache with airbrushed backgrounds.
Not Friends is written and illustrated by Rebecca Bender; published by Pajama Press. This latest Bender book is a wonderful addition to her previous work. The delightful illustrations were created with acrylic paint on texturized illustration board and add a lot of visual pizzazz to the short text. Because of the inclusion of many funny words and situations, this is a perfect read aloud book for library story times. Check it out!
The Old Mainer and the Sea was written by Jean M. Flahive and illustrated by Mari Dieumegard; published by Islandport Press. I love this gentle tale of persistence, routine, and an unexpected exchange of gifts of kindness. Set in the late 1800s, this story honors all the fishermen who brave the deep dark sea to earn their livings. Dieumegard uses a combination of acrylic and oil pastels to create her paintings which are awash with vibrant swirling colors.
Pup and Bear was written by Kate Banks and illustrated by Naoko Stoop; published by Schwartz & Wade. Both this book and Winter Dance (reviewed below) have a similar earthy quality about their pages. Pup and Bear is a lovely story about a polar bear who takes care of an abandoned wolf pup who later pays this kindness forward. Great message of accepting those unlike yourself. Stoop’s illustrations are rendered in acrylic paint, ink, pencils, and pastels on plywood, and then digitally finished.
Red & Lulu was written and illustrated by Matt Tavares; published by Candlewick. This is a heartwarming story about a pair of cardinals who get separated when their home—a giant Norway spruce—is taken down for a special purpose. Red searches high and low for Lulu who was inside the tree’s branches at the time it was taken away by truck. Fans of New York and Christmas will especially enjoy the details of this tale. The beautiful paintings were created using watercolor and gouache.
Shelter was written by Celine Claire and illustrated by Qin Leng; published by Kids Can Press. It’s a wonderful thing to see so many new books for children that cater to the theme of generosity and kindness. Like several others on this list, this poignant story takes place in the animal world and shows how reaching out to welcome newcomers in their time of need may not only save their lives, but yours, as well. The beautiful soft artwork is rendered in pen and ink and watercolor.
Winter Dance was written by Marion Dane Bauer and illustrated by Richard Jones; published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. With a single snowflake, a fine red fox realizes winter is coming and wonders what he should do. His forest friends all tell him what they will be doing but nothing seems right for the fox until a special someone reminds him of his role. The lyrical text is accompanied by absolutely gorgeous paintings.
You Know What was written by Carol Gordon Ekster and illustrated by Nynke Mare Talsma; published by Clavis. This colorful book about a curious little boy makes a fun bedtime story. Like many children, Oliver has a lot of interesting questions, especially when asking those questions delays bedtime. His sleepy mother does her best to keep up the conversation and is rewarded by his last words. Children will enjoy finding the comical bunny in each double spread of this sweet story.So there you have it. As always, I’m sure I missed many well deserving new titles, but there’s only so much space and time. Because I’m a stickler for details, I was a little disappointed to notice a blatant typo in three different books—one a scrambled word, one a repeated word, and one with a word missing. There are only so many words in these new mostly shorter-styled picture books. Is it really that difficult a task to quickly proofread before printing?
To those who live on this side of the pond, have a wonderful Thanksgiving. And to the rest of you who pop in from various faraway locations, I wish you the best of the season, as well. Thanks for reading!
Call Me Amy chosen for 2014 Best Books of the Year!
Keeping the Blogisphere a Beautiful Place
Spirit Animal Blogging Award
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Great Reviews for CALL ME AMY
“Well-drawn, sympathetic characters and the developing spark between Amy and Craig combine to create a pleasant, satisfying read.” –KIRKUS
“Strykowski lovingly captures seaside Maine and the travails of adolescence in her quiet, sweet-natured debut novel.”—PUBLISHERS WEEKLY
“Strykowski ably depicts Amy’s insecurity and self-doubt, Craig’s bravura and pain, and Miss Cogshell’s wisdom with a deft, convincing touch. In essence, Amy comes of age as she fights to find her voice in the outside world and shed some of her debilitating insecurity. Readers will cheer her on, and her splendid team, too.” –BOOKLIST
"The protagonist grows throughout the story, from a shy loner to having two friends and speaking her mind in front of her adversaries at school as well as to the whole town. …Amy is a reliable narrator and easily relatable.” –SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL
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“To do a good deed, we can find friendship in the most curious of locations. “Call Me Amy” is a novel from Marcia Strykowski following the struggles of Amy Henderson, who finds an injured seal and seeks to nurse it, with the help of a scorned aging woman and an unusual youth. Set in the early 70s and exploring the essence of loneliness, “Call Me Amy” is a powerful read that should prove so very hard to put down, highly recommended.”—MIDWEST BOOK REVIEW
“This is a wonderful YA tale for the simple fact that it shows one and all that the power and courage to stand up and be heard in this life comes from within. And that no matter who you are, you have that toughness inside your soul. Craig has a lovely heart that hides behind that sarcasm he aims at the world, and he will remind every small town girl about that quiet boy she fell in love with long ago. ‘Old Coot’ brings the fun and humor along with her, and Pup is the sweetest creature in the world. Having all the ingredients of first love, faith, loss and strength makes ‘Amy’ unforgettable.” —FEATHERED QUILL
“For Amy, 1973 has been a lonely year, her only friend moved away and she feels awkward around her classmates. Until one day Amy discovers that Craig, another classmate, has rescued an injured seal pup. Amy agrees to help him and together they hide the pup at Miss Cogshell’s house, the odd old lady most kids call “Old Coot.” Amy learns that people aren’t always what they seem to be, and she forms a friendship with Craig and Miss Cogshell. A great story about friendship and doing what you think is right.” —KIDSBOOKSHELF
“For those ages 8 to 12, Call Me Amy by Marcia Strykowski will resonate with familiar themes of growing up. The year is 1973 and for Amy Henderson, it has been a lonely one with too many awkward moments to count. When she finds an injured seal pup, she rescues him to rehabilitate him. In the process she forms an unlikely alliance with Craig, a boy around her age, and an older woman in town. With their help she discovers that people aren’t always what they seem despite what others may think of them. This is a story filled with many elements that will appeal to younger readers and I highly recommend it.”—BOOKVIEWS.COM
"A wounded seal pup propels 13-year-old Amy Henderson into an unlikely alliance with an unusual older woman and a mysterious boy in a small Maine fishing village. Readers will cheer for Amy as she protects Pup, gains confidence, faces challenges, and comes up with an idea that could change not only the future of her village, but also, her own life. With a skillful hand, Strykowski introduces us to a small town with memorable characters and the girl who could bring them all together." ---Anne Broyles, award-winning author of PRISCILLA AND THE HOLLYHOCKS
"In a small town in Maine in the 1970's, Amy is standing on the brink of becoming a young adult. The events that will force her to discover who she is, what she is made of and how she wants others to perceive her are sweetly told through awkward teenage moments, the triumphs and sadnesses of that age and ultimately, Amy's discovery of her own beliefs, strength and courage." ---Kathleen Benner Duble, acclaimed author of THE SACRIFICE
“Call Me Amy is exactly the type of book I love. The characters are relatable and likeable; they are individuals that the reader enjoys getting to know while watching them change and develop. The setting of the small Maine coastal town is idyllic, and the reader is quickly and completely immersed in this community. Although the novel takes place in the 1970s, it feels timeless. Young readers will readily associate with Amy’s struggles and triumphs with her relationships with family and friends, and mature readers will be gently nudged back to this period in their life. These universal qualities make this novel a perfect choice for many types of readers. As a Youth Services Librarian, I would enthusiastically recommend Call Me Amy to our young patrons as well as to a more adult audience. Because it can be enjoyed on so many levels, this novel would be an ideal source of discussion for an adult/child book group.” ---Patty Falconer, Youth Services Librarian
"I just finished CALL ME AMY and I think it is wonderful with beautiful descriptions. I love the characters and their story. It is like having seen a good play or movie and later, while you are doing other things, it comes back to you and you think about the characters again." ---Peggy Arnold, retired teacher and avid reader.
For 13-year-old Amy Henderson, 1973 has been a lonely and uneventful year in her small Maine fishing village. With the help of a wounded seal pup, she gets to know Craig, who slinks around in an oversized army jacket. A new law against handling wild marine mammals brings suspense to the story. Where can they keep Pup until he heals? Their only hope is to trust Miss Cogshell, an elderly woman keeping to herself amidst jeers from the local kids, who catches them sneaking Pup into her woodshed in the middle of the night. Throughout the book, small challenges prepare Amy for her greatest one of all. A challenge that leads her to discover that everyone, herself included, has a voice worth hearing.