Remy and Lulu

 

RemyandLulu

Image Credit: Alfred A. Knopf (Random House Children’s Books), Kevin Hawkes/Hannah E. Harrison

Art has always been an integral part of my life so when I read this book for the first time, I was delighted. It’s very silly and endearing. Hawkes is a great storyteller.

In Remy and Lulu, Lulu meets a painter named Remy and they become friends. Remy is VERY confident in his art and claims to paint the “essence of a person, not their likeness” (his art is a blur) but his patrons are always disappointed and angered by his art! One day during a session, Remy stops to rest and Lulu picks up a brush and takes off painting. At first his patrons are angry but then they spot the tiny, meticulous masterpiece in the corner and are ecstatic! They thank Remy and pay him double and he’s reassured that painting from his heart will lead to great results (and money in his pocket and food in their bellies!)

Remy (and Lulu) becomes very famous but he has bad eyesight, so he never notices Lulu’s paintings UNTIL he has a commission from an optometrist who gifts him with new glasses. Finally his eyes are opened to the truth of their fame and he is angry and bitter and forgets about his good friend. Luckily, Remy comes to realize just how important friendship is when Lulu helps him find himself again.

Kevin Hawkes’ paintings are great; the scenes of the French countryside are beautiful and inviting. His style stands out with its bold color and strokes but so does Hannah E. Harrison’s. Her miniature, highly detailed animal paintings are gorgeous. Harrison’s oil paintings add something special to the book, similar to how¬†Lulu is the best business partner and friend Remy could ask for. Check out her book Bernice Gets Carried Away which is also AWESOME and highlights her detailed style.

Be sure to read this story with your little budding artist and head out to the country side to paint like Remy and Lulu!

P.S. The story actually begins on the endpapers (when you first open the book)! Look at Lulu’s sad expression as the beautiful paintings are taken away. ūüė¶


Recommended for
: All Ages
Great for: Humor, Art, Friendship, Determination, Dogs, Animals, Dreams, France
Book Info: Remy and Lulu¬†written by Kevin Hawkes/Illustrated by Kevin Hawkes and Hannah E. Harrison, 2014¬†Alfred A. Knopf (Random House Children’s Books),¬†ISBN: 9780449810859

The Tea Party in the Woods

TheTeaPartyintheWoods

Image Credit: Kids Can Press, Akiko Miyakoshi

 

Japanese author/illustrator Akiko Miyakoshi creates a whimsical and mysterious winter fantasy inspired by Little Red Riding Hood. The Tea Party in the Woods was originally printed in Japan in 2010 („āā„āä„Āģ„Āä„ĀŹ„Āģ„Āä„Ā°„āÉ„Āč„ĀĄ„Āł) but was translated to English and printed in Canada/US this year. I’m always happy and thankful for this special type of global exchange. There are SO many great stories out there!

In The Tea Party in the Woods, Kikko sets out after her father on a wintry morning. He forgot the pie for grandma and so she bravely walks through the woods in the deep snow to catch up with him. She finally sees him and rushes to catch up but drops and crushes the pie box. After she gets up, she follows him again but he walks into a strange house! Turns out it’s not her father at all…but a bear wearing a suit! She’s invited into the animals’ tea party where everyone is having a lovely time with music and delicious food. The animals share slices of all their lovely pies to make a special new pie for grandma.

This book is lovely and odd. Miyakoshi’s sketchy charcoal and pencil illustrations stand out against the white background. Her sparse use of color is just enough to highlight and draw attention, similar to Sydney Smith’s use of color in Sidewalk Flowers.¬†The page where Kikko enters the party is a bit spooky; all the animals stare at her with wide eyes. Perhaps they’re just as surprised to see her as she is them! Snuggle up with a cup of hot cocoa and enjoy The Tea Party in the Woods with your children.

Recommended for: All Ages
Great for: Family, Little Red Riding Hood, Community, Determination, Friendship, Party, Animals, Pie, Party, Mystery, Winter, Woods, Global Exchange
Book Info: The Tea Party in the Woods by Akiko Miyakoshi, 2015 Kids Can Press, ISBN: 9781771381079

Wild

Wild

Image Credit: Flying Eye Books, Emily Hughes

I love this one. ūüôā ¬†Her big, expressive eyes draw you in, don’t they? She is unashamedly content and happy with her wildness.

Hughes’ story is about a young girl who grows up in the woods and is embraced and raised by its creatures. Bird teaches her how to talk, Bear teaches her how to eat (by catching salmon with her teeth on the edge of a waterfall!!) and Fox teaches her how to play. But one day strange animals take her away and attempt to raise her “properly.” From her perspective, they speak wrong, eat wrong, everything is WRONG and she is hopelessly unhappy. Will she find the strength within herself to be wild and happy again? This book touches on issues of acceptance, inner-strength, difference and perspective. Just because she’s “wild” does that make her lifestyle wrong? Perhaps “wild” is just a matter of perspective…

Wild2

Image Credit: Flying Eye Books, Emily Hughes (click for a closer look)

In addition to a great story, Hughes crafts gorgeous illustrations. The earthy brown, green and blue colors of the woods contrast with the girl’s pink skin and wild green hair. Though they contrast, it’s obvious how much she is a part of her surroundings.¬†Her expressive eyes tell most of the story, as readers can easily read her emotions. Hughes loves to draw fauna and foliage and she’s very good at it; this is also also evident in her newest book The Little Gardener. I hope you’ll enjoy this book with your wild ones! Never¬†let anyone make you forget who you really are!

Recommended for: All Ages
Great for: Perspective, Family, Inner-Strength, Action/Adventure, Animals, Community, Determination, Discussion, Friendship, Humor
Book Info: Wild by Emily Hughes, 2013 Flying Eye Books, ISBN: 9781909263086

Joshua by the Sea

JoshuabytheSea

Image Credit: Orchard Books, Angela Johnson/Rhonda Mitchell

I first discovered this sweet little board book at my bookstore, sitting outside in the bargain bins. It celebrates a black family’s day at the sea. I’m so happy to see the main character is a¬†black boy because it’s still a rare thing to see in picture books.

In Joshua by the Sea, Joshua introduces himself as a boy who loves the sea and all its wonders. He happily plays with his toys in the sand and also introduces readers to his family as they relax and enjoy the beautiful day. He goes exploring with his big sister and also explores on his own, running happily through the water. My favorite page is the last one where Joshua gazes off into the sunset, his day at the sea coming to an end.

Mitchell’s watercolor illustrations are beautiful. She paints crisp blue foamy waters, white sea gulls and a beautiful rosy sunset. It’s easy to see why Joshua loves the sea. Your toddler or baby will enjoy looking through this book with its simple text, story and beautiful images. If you enjoy this book, there are a few more books in this series; Joshua’s Night Whispers, Mama bird, Baby Birds and Rain Feet.

Recommended for: Babies and Toddlers
Great for: Family, Sea, Vacation, Friendship, Adventure, Inquisitive Minds, Diversity, We Need Diverse Books, African-American
Book Info: Joshua by the Sea by Angela Johnson/Illustrated by Rhonda Mitchell, 1994 Orchard Books, ISBN: 9780531068465

Auntie Yang’s Great Soybean Picnic

AuntieYangSoybeanPicnic

Image Credit: Lee & Low Books Inc., Ginnie Lo/Beth Lo

 

There’s nothing like finding a little bit of home in a new place.

Auntie Yang’s Great Soybean Picnic tells a story that may be familiar to many immigrant families in the US; a story about finding comfort with like minded people and forming community in a new country. Jinyi lives¬†a little far away from her Auntie Yang but her family makes sure to visit often and stay close. She grows up with Chinese lessons, art lessons, cooking Chinese food and lots of¬†playtime¬†with her cousins.

One day on a lazy Sunday drive, Auntie Yang spots¬†soybeans growing in a field! At this time, soybeans aren’t commonly eaten in the US. The farmer thinks the Chinese family wants the beans to feed their pig, but no, they will boil¬†them to eat!¬†And so begins the yearly tradition of The Great Soybean Picnic. Each year it gets bigger and bigger and more Chinese families in the Chicago area join in with lots of delicious Chinese dishes. Auntie Yang and her sister become less¬†homesick because the happy discovery of soybeans brings them¬†a new large and loving Chinese community in the US.

This is a sweet story of family, food and finding place…in a new place. It’s inspired by real events and in the back of the book, Ginnie and Beth Lo share family photos, more information about the Soybean Picnic, information about soybeans and a glossary¬†of the Chinese words used in the book. We even get to see photos of the dynamic Auntie Yang!

Beth Lo’s paintings¬†have a vintage mid-century Chinese art vibe to them that I like. I didn’t realize that the illustrations are actually painted on porcelain plates until I read the back of the book. I’ll repeat that, each “illustration” is a plate! How cool is that??¬†Auntie Yang’s Great Soybean Picnic is a great¬†story to share with your family. I’m off¬†to get some edamame! ūüėČ

 

Recommended for: All ages
Great for: Chinese American Culture, Chinese Food, Friendship, Family, Food Culture, Community, Immigration, Soybeans, Cousins, Siblings, Cultural Diversity, We Need Diverse Books, Home Sickness, Discussion, New Traditions in a New Place, Chinese Language, Cultural Relativism
Book Info: Auntie Yang’s Great Soybean Picnic¬†by Ginnie Lo/Illustrated by Beth Lo, 2012 Lee & Low Books Inc.,¬†ISBN: 9781600604423

Two Mice

TwoMice

Image Credit: Clarion Books (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), Sergio Ruzzier

 

Two Mice.
One (awesome) Friendship.

Two Friends.
One (big) Adventure.

Two Mice is a nice little mouse-sized adventure book. I imagine in the mouse world, if Roger Cheesebert rated books, he’d give it four cheddars¬†and I suspect this book is already legend. I‚Äôm imagining little mice children sitting around the fire while Grandma Mouse reads this tale.

This little book has a big heart. The simple text¬†focuses on numbers and counting; younger readers can read this book and feel confident that they know all the words in front of them! It also shows that sometimes you don’t need many words to tell a great story. In this story, two mice live together in one house and after a meal of three cookies (one mouse looks a little annoyed!) they set out for the day. Three boats with two oars…what adventures await?

I’m a big fan of Sergio Ruzzier’s storytelling and art. I recently reviewed his book A Letter for Leo which is one of my favorites! I love¬†how he creates complete little worlds on each spread.¬†His attention to detail is wonderful and the watercolor paintings are lovely (I always love his skies!). You’ll love all the funny expressions of his characters. Teachers, this book would be perfect for lessons about travel, adventure, storytelling (beginning/middle/end) and “best travel stories.” Hope you will enjoy Two Mice!

Recommended for: All ages
Great for: Animals, Friendship, Action/Adventure, Counting, Determination, Vocabulary, Humor, Read-Aloud, Discussion
Book Info: Two Mice by Sergio Ruzzier, 2015 Clarion Books (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), ISBN: 9780544302099

 

The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch

TheAmazingAgeofJohnRoyLynch

Image Credit: Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, Chris Barton/Don Tate

John Roy Lynch. A child of slavery and reborn during Reconstruction, he is a true example of hard work and determination. This biography gives us a glimpse into his amazing life during a very important but overlooked part of American history, Reconstruction.

John was a half Irish boy born into slavery. Soon the Civil War came and though slaves were eventually emancipated, John wasn’t really free until he set off on his own as a teen. He took several jobs in Natchez, Mississippi; just being able to make his own way, as a free man, was liberating! He taught himself to read and write and started to speak out in local politics on the issue of Blacks and voting. Before he knew it, he was Justice of the Peace and would eventually be elected to the Mississippi House of Representatives. He became the Speaker of the House and would rise on to the U.S. House of Representatives in Washington D.C. He did all this in just ten years time from being a slave and would live his life striving for equal rights.

John Roy Lynch accomplished quite a great deal but he was frustrated with the slow speed of progress for people of color. Though Blacks were legally liberated, Whites started to push back against the progress Free Blacks were making in American society though processes like voting to make changes, owning property, and gaining government positions. Some of this push back was done with violence. The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch is an important historical biography that not only tells us the story of a great man but also reminds us of the importance of Reconstruction.

The illustrations for this book are great! Don Tate brings John’s life to life though soft ink and gouache paintings. From his early days in the cotton field, to my favorite spread of John Roy Lynch standing in front of the flag with determination in his eyes, his life is honored though skillful illustration. Here’s to making your own amazing age and living with purpose!

 

Recommended for: 3rd Grade and up
Great for: Non-Fiction, Biography, Leader, Role-Model, Determination, Government, Slavery, Reconstruction, Community, Family, We Need Diverse Books, Diversity, Discussion, History, Social Issues, African-American
Book Info: The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch by Chris Barton/Illustrated by Don Tate, 2015 Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, ISBN: 9780802853790

2016 Medal Predictions

2015 is coming to a close and new book releases are trickling down so it’s time to start thinking about Medal Season! Woo. 2015 produced some amazing books.¬†If you look at the bottom of my blog, I have a word cloud for most frequently used “tags”. Click “2015” to see¬†the books from this year that I enjoyed. I also highly recommend taking a look at this excellent book list.

In case you don’t already know, the Caldecott is a medal for the best illustrations by an author/illustrator with an American citizenship or residence for the year. The Newbery is a medal for the best work of children’s literature¬†by an author with an American citizenship or residence for the year. There’s only one “Medal Winner” (gold)¬†for each award¬†though “Honor Medals” (silver) can be given. All medal and honor recipients are selected by fancy schmancy committees.

I’m still deciding¬†on my Newbery pick because I have a few books to read/re-read but I’m certain about my Caldecott pick.¬†I’m partial to the Caldecott¬†anyway because I love picture books, art and illustration SO¬†much! ¬†Without further ado…

My 2016 Caldecott pick is:

Float

Image Credit: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, Daniel Miyares

Float by Daniel Miyares

It’s simple and powerful all at the same time. Float is excellence in illustration and storytelling and is perfect for children, exactly what the Caldecott is awarded for. It’s a gorgeous story conveyed through gorgeous illustrations that deserves to win it all! Win it all I say! You can read my full review for Float¬†here. Good luck, Daniel!

Ace Dragon LTD.

AceDragonLTD

Image Credit: Candlewick Press, Russell Hoban/Quentin Blake

This US re-issue of Ace Dragon LTD. (originally published in the UK in 1980) is right on time. A clever story filled with quirky writing, it fits right in with our 2015 picture book sensibilities.

In Ace Dragon LTD., John, equipped with his sword on his belt, discovers a manhole-like cover in the ground that says Ace Dragon LTD. After stomping three times, a voice answers his many questions. We find out that LTD. means limited, which means that someone can only do some things, not all. Ace Dragon tells John all the things he can¬†do (like breathe fire and fly) and invites him to go flying BUT,¬†John has to fight him. They meet up, and after proper introductions, fight. John wins best of three and they go adventuring! Ace is a pretty special dragon; maybe he’s not as limited as he thinks.

Hoban and Blake are quite a team in their storytelling/illustrating capabilities. The illustrations are perfectly suited to the story. John is an inquisitive little boy with wild orange hair and Ace Dragon is just the right amount of fierce and friendly; he’s wearing red Wellingtons for goodness sake! ūüôā ¬†Quentin Blake’s signature scratchy style with ink and¬†muted watercolors makes for great visual storytelling. Looking for a great adventure and friendship story? Read Ace Dragon LTD.!

 

Recommended for: All ages
Great for: Fantasy, Friendship, Dragons, Animals, Inquisitive Minds, Action/Adventure, Humor
Book Info: Ace Dragon LTD. by Russell Hoban/Illustrated by Quentin Black, 2015 Candlewick Press, ISBN: 9780763674823

 

The Bear Report

TheBearReport

Image Credit: Abrams Books for Young Readers (Abrams), Thyra Heder

 

Have you ever felt uninspired to do your homework? Too bad you didn’t have¬†inspiration in the form of a 600 pound polar bear…some people have all the luck.

In The Bear Report, Sophie has to find three facts about polar bears for class but unfortunately she has a few misconceptions; one is that they’re mean. As she sits in front of the television, avoiding her work, a polar bear suddenly shows up on her sofa and tells her that they’re not ALL mean. Olafur is actually quite a nice guy with varied interests. He takes her to his world and tours her around. They dine on fish sticks, he teaches her about whale music, shows her the arctic animals and she even uses her smarts to help them out of a tricky situation.¬†I think it’s safe to say that Sophie’s found what she needs for an excellent school report…and a new friend.

I love the fantasy of this story and it’s very cute. I enjoyed the friendly banter between Sophie and Olafur. Heder crafts an original story with heart. Her watercolor illustrations are beautiful; Olafur and Sophie have the best expressions¬†and watercolor is the perfect medium to depict the translucent blue ice and shiny waters of the ocean. Be sure to check out this excellent story about the beauty of the Arctic and an unlikely friendship!

Recommended for: All ages
Great for: Animals, Humor, Friendship, Fantasy, Inspiration, Environment, Northern Lights
Book Info: The Bear Report by Thyra Heder, 2015 Abrams Books for Young Readers (Abrams), ISBN: 9781419707834