Because so many great picture books were released over the past year or so, I feel I have to get in one more book review post. Here’s another sixteen books for your holiday gift giving and reading pleasure, in no particular order:
Sing a Song of Seasons: A Nature Poem for Each Day of the Year was illustrated by Frann Preston-Gannon, poems were selected by Fiona Waters; published by Nosy Crow. This lavishly illustrated big sturdy book is filled with some of my favorite poems as well as many new ones. It’s fun to look up the birthdays of your family and friends to see what poem has been chosen for their special day. There’s a handy index of poets, titles, and first lines at the back and an attached ribbon bookmark. A coffee-table sized book that’s great for all ages with delightful illustrations of wildlife throughout.
Paul and His Ukulele was written by Rob Broder and illustrated by Jenn Kocsmiersky; published by Ripple Grove Press. I adore this tender celebration of a life well lived. The beautifully written story follows Paul, a gentle spirit and lover of music, from childhood to adulthood. His relationship with his parents is warm and loving. The watercolor and ink illustrations are gorgeous and worth looking at again and again. Possible spoiler alert: it was fun to see Paul’s future love interest appear early in the coffee shop scene. But what they accomplish together is the best surprise of all!
Potato Pants was written and illustrated by Laurie Keller; published by Henry Holt & Co. The illustrations were created with markers, colored pencils, pen & ink, acrylic paint, potato stamps, collage, and digital drawing. What a refreshing sense of humor Laurie Keller has. It shows on every page, even on the title and copyright pages. In the back matter, we get to meet Tuberto, creator of potato pants and see his “full line of potato fashions for both the active and the couch potato.” Underneath all the laughs is a good reminder that assumptions about others aren’t always accurate.
Too much, not enough! was written and illustrated by Gina Perry; published by Tundra Books. This bright, cheerful book introduces us to Moe and Peanut. When one friend always wants more, taller, bigger, messier, etc. and the other friend always wants less, smaller, softer, tidier, can they ever find a way to get along? A good story of accepting differences. The cute artwork was surprisingly created with Photoshop and the endpapers are fun, too!
A World of Cities was written and illustrated by James Brown; published by Candlewick Studio. This is a beautiful big book, and I’m talking really big as in an 11″ x 15″ format. Seeing all that takes place in the bold, graphic prints, plus the fascinating facts and huge populations of so many different parts of the world made this reader feel an enormous sense of just how huge the world really is. Wonderful for classrooms and armchair travelers of all ages.
Bears Don’t Eat Egg Sandwiches was written byJulie Fulton and illustrated by Rachel Suzanne; published by Maverick Arts Publishing. This fun book is a great choice for story time. The lyrical repetition throughout will have kids squealing in anticipation of the title line, which is the bear’s response each time Jack politely and patiently offers egg sandwiches. The big ol’ gruff bear is certainly hungry, but what DOES he eat? I have to admit I kept worrying about Jack’s safety as the bear received his large eating supplies. The suspense builds throughout, but all turns out well after Jack’s clever solution, followed by a cute punchline. Bright and cheerful illustrations are a great match for this fun story.
Fire Truck Dreams was written by Sharon Chriscoe and illustrated by Dave Mottram; published by Running Press Kids. A fun rhyming story. Beautiful pictures have the appearance of a lot of soft textures on each page. This is such a cute series, Fire Truck Dreams being a follow-up to Race Car Dreams and Bulldozer Dreams. And the busy little fire engine even stops at a Rescue Readers Library on his way back to the station.
Lost in the Library was written by Josh Funk and illustrated by Stevie Lewis; published by Henry Holt & co. The rhyming is spot on and I love the personable lions with their big expressive faces. Beautiful digitally rendered illustrations and endpapers along with an interesting page of back matter containing fascinating facts about the New York Public Library. The muted color palette works perfectly for the luxurious rooms of the NYPL.
The Book Tree was written by Paul Czajak and illustrated by Rashin Kheiriyeh; published by Barefoot Books. A lovely work of art from the embossed title on the cover to the beautiful book-filled endpapers. The mixed media illustrations are stunning and the words are gentle and flowing–all resulting in a comfortable folktale-for-the-ages style. And the message is of course perfect, because really, where would we be without books?
Small was written and illustrated by Gina Perry; published by Little Bee Books. I love how it appears this feisty little character is all on her own on her adventures, but upon closer inspection you will discover her mother and baby sibling are always close by in almost every picture. The illustrations are clean, bright, and imaginative. Very cute story with a BIG message.
Drawn Together was written by Minh Le and illustrated by Dan Santat; published by Disney-Hyperion. This gorgeous book reaches across generations and language barriers to set a young boy and his grandfather on a magnificent adventure that, through their mutual love of drawing, brings them a lasting and close companionship. The amazing artwork was created with markers, oil-based inks, brush pens, watercolors, and colored pens and pencils.
How Rude! was written by Clare Helen Welsh and illustrated by Olivier Tallec; published by Quarto Publishing PLC. This cute story is about Dot and her friend Duck. Duck is being very rude during the nice tea party Dot has kindly spread out for him. The words are filled with humor and the expressive illustrations are adorable. This is a wonderful book that shows why it’s important to be polite and how people feel sad when others are rude to them.
Ten Horse Farm was written and illustrated by Robert Sabuda; published by Candlewick. The paper cutting and folding genius has done it again. Horse lovers in particular will love the detailed pop-up illustrations. Each beautifully constructed horse leaps right off the page. There aren’t many words, mostly just one per page, but it is definitely a treasure for gentle story-times and pop-up book fans of all ages.
All-of-a-Kind Family Hanukkah was written by Emily Jenkins and illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky; published by Schwartz & Wade. For the many fans of Sydney Taylor’s classic series, this new picture book is a great find. Based on her own childhood, Taylor, in 1951, was the first to write about Jewish children and culture. This new book is aimed at a slightly younger audience and features little Gertie who wants desperately to help prepare for Hanukkah. After being told she is too small, she finally gets to do the biggest job of all. I’ve always enjoyed Zelinsky’s illustrations and the interesting back matter includes his thoughts on technique.
Christmas ABC was written and illustrated by Jannie Ho; published by Nosy Crow. This is a very cute alphabet board book. The alphabet is clearly displayed, one letter per page, in uppercase as well as lowercase on bright checked backgrounds. Simple bold pictures match the one word text throughout. One of my favorites is Qq which stands for ‘quiet’ and shows a little gray mouse tiptoeing along with a special present. Pages are sturdy with rounded corners, perfect for little hands.
Little Christmas Tree was written and illustrated by Jessica Courtney-Tickle; published by Big Picture Press. This is another beautiful board book for a slightly older group–ages 2-5. The lyrical verse tells of a little tree waking up in the forest surrounded by woodland animals. Surprises unfold throughout Christmas day until night and snowflakes fall. This is a lift-the-flap book with at least three tabs blending into the scene on each double page spread. Descriptive words and colors are hidden on the underside of the flaps. Illustrations are filled with sparkles and other details. The lovely rhythm of the poem put me in mind of Emily Dickinson.
Call Me Amy chosen for 2014 Best Books of the Year!
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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.