GIVE & TAKE by Lucie Félix

GIVE & TAKE is a title from a new imprint of one of my favorite picture book publishers, Candlewick Press. Candlewick Studio was created to offer readers of all ages titles "characterized by elegant, engaging design; captivating, well-presented concepts and content; the highest-quality illustration; and superior production values." Judging by the first two titles from this imprint, GIVE & TAKE by Lucie Félix and An Artists's Alphabet by Norman Messenger, they have instantly and marvelously delivered on their promise.

GIVE & TAKE is a concept book of opposites that is wonderfully realized and a joy to read over and over. It is also a book that, like all interactive, pop-up type books, is best enjoyed by children over the age of three and, as the back of the book advises, "best when shared with a grown-up." GIVE & TAKE is a simple, clever book with bright, bold illustrations. The first page of the book tells readers to remove the shape on the recto, which features a red circle with the word, "TAKE," at the bottom of the page. A page turn reveals the word, "GIVE," and an illustration of an open hand, ready to receive what now appears to be a red ball.

BREAK and BUILD and OPEN and CLOSE are word pairs that follow, with a square turning into two triangles that look like rooftops and the mouth of a green creature. There are other surprises, from a mirror to a cloud to a candle. The penultimate page of GIVE & TAKE reads, "TAKE APART," and shows red slices that are put back together on the page turn to make an apple. And with that, you can start the book all over again!

Having scouted out worthwhile board books for toddlers during the 11+ years that my kids were little and the almost ten years on top of that when I was a bookseller, I can honestly say I have never seen a board book like GIVE & TAKE before. It is a book that I know little ones will read over and over and I am sure that the thick pages and sturdy pop outs will hold up - as long as they are not lost. Lucie Félix's book is one that will make a unique baby shower gift, an excellent first (second, third or even fourth) birthday gift and something that will give any adult extra lap time with a wiggly toddler.

Source: Review Copy


An Artist's Alphabet by Norman Messenger

An Artist's Alphabet by Norman Messenger is a title from a new imprint of one of my favorite picture book publishers, Candlewick Press. Candlewick Studio was created to offer readers of all ages titles "characterized by elegant, engaging design; captivating, well-presented concepts and content; the highest-quality illustration; and superior production values." Judging by the first two titles from this imprint, GIVE & TAKE by Lucie Félix and An Artists's Alphabet, they have instantly and marvelously delivered on their promise. In 2012 I reviewed two of Norman Messenger's books, Land of Never Believe: Explored and Documented by Norman Messenger AND Imagine. Like another favorite picture book author and illustrator, Anthony Browne, Messenger is a superbly gifted artist who brings a rarely seen surreal style to the world of kid's books and I am so happy to be reviewing his newest book, An Artist's Alphabet.

At first glance, An Artist's Alphabet seems like it is following a familiar formula. Acrobats stretch and bend to make upper and lower case As. Caterpillars curve as they munch leaves to create upper and lower case Bs. Then, upper and lower case Cs arc, about to crash, evoking the work of Japanese artist, Hokusai.

As the alphabet unfolds, you find yourself thinking and wondering, trying to connect the illustration to the letter. Sometimes Messenger uses negative space to create the letter and sometimes you have to stare at the page before you see the letter. Reading this book with a child is sure to inspire many different conversations and maybe even a little creative exploration outside of the book. As the blurb for Messenger's book aptly states, An Artist's Alphabet is, "ingenious and intriguing, beautiful and full of stunning detail, this is an alphabet book sure to invite many repeat readings." While this book may not appeal to all children (or adults), An Artist's Alphabet is a book that a child will never forget, well into adulthood, and return to often.

Source: Review Copy


Poles Apart by Jeanne Willis, illustrated by Jarvis

Poles Apart by Jeanne Willis with illustrations by Jarvis is a superb picture book that I especially value because, after reading, I will never mix up the poles that penguins and polar bears live at again! Armed with a map of the world and plans for a picnic, the Pilchard-Browns, Mr. and Mrs. and the young Peeky, Poots and Pog, find themselves some 12,430 miles off course at the North Pole. Fortunately, the adventurous Mr. White and his positive mindset is there to help. After all, Mr. White has "often dreamed of being the first polar bear to reach the South Pole."

Donning his red bowler cap and hopping on an iceberg, the polar bear and the penguins set off.

From the bustling streets of the United States to the rainy grey of England to the sunny glow of Italy, the crew travel on, lead by Mr. White, partaking of the culture of every country they cross. In India, with Mr. White pulling the penguin family in a rickshaw, Mr. Pilchard-Brown exclaims, "Namaste!," while Mrs. Pilchard-Brown instructs Pog to, "put the python down, dear."

Australia was "bonzer," and the South Pole was almost in sight. Peeky, Poots and Pog all beg Mr. White to stay for the picnic but, "it wasn't his home. He was a polar bear, and polar bears live at the North Pole." Back home, Mr. White is thrilled that he had a fantastic adventure, happy to be back home and missing his new friends just a little. Happily, Pogs tucked something very special inside Mr. White's red bowler hat, ensuring a return visit from the Pilchard-Browns in the very near future!

Jarvis's illustrations have the layered feel of a collage combined with the movement of charcoal drawings. His palette shifts with each new continent visited, adding to the sense of movement and adventure. Poles Apart, besides being helping me remember who lives where, is a very fun and funny picture book that readers will remember long after turning the last page

Source: Review Copy


Little Penguins by Cynthia Rylant, illustrated by Christian Robinson

Little Penguins by Cynthia Rylant could have been titled almost anything - Little Foxes, Little Rabbits, Little Children, and, with illustrations by Christian Robinson, been every bit as enjoyable, entertaining and charming. However, it's hard to argue with the perfect pairing of penguins and snow. Rylant's text is meditative and repetitive, and cozy, ideal for lulling little listeners to sleep. Little Penguins begins with one little penguin peering out the window and the question, "Snowflakes?"

Many snowflakes, winter is coming! Five little penguins need many mittens, many socks and many boots before heading out the door of their igloo. But one little penguin stays behind. The four sled, play and sink in the deep snow. But where's mama? Never fear, Mama and the littlest penguin arrive to lead the four home. Once in the door, with the scarves, mittens, socks and boots off, it's time for "Warm cookies, please? And sippies." 

Little Penguins ends with all five tucked into bed, "Wrap up tight. Watch the night. Winter is here." As always, Christian Robinson's illustrations are completely compelling. Colorfully blocky and, with torn paper for snow, evocative of the collage illustrations of Lois Ehlert, Robinson's style seems to be deepening and expanding. I can't wait to see what he turns his talents to next!

Source: Review Copy


Don't Wake Up the Tiger by Britta Teckentrup

 Don't Wake Up the Tiger is the sixth book by Britta Teckentrup that I have reviewed and she has become a favorite author/illustrator I seek out. Born in Germany and attending art school in London, I appreciate the European sensibility that Teckentrup brings to her picture books, from story to palette to varied illustration styles. With Don't Wake Up the Tiger, Teckentrup plays with an interactive story that has a happy surprise at the end.

Tiger is fast asleep and shouldn't be woken up, but she's in the way! Her friends, Stork, Fox, Frog, Turtle and Mouse are in a hurry and they have a big bunch of balloons to carry. How can they get past her without waking up?

The clever animals try floating over Tiger first, with the narrator asking listeners to help make sure she stays asleep by petting her nose or patting her tummy. Sometimes readers even have to blow and blow to get the balloons to float over Tiger and rock the book back and forth to get her back to sleep. A white background makes Teckentrup's animals pop off the page, each one of which features tiger stretched out across the bottom. The palette in Don't Wake Up Tiger is muted, except for the bunch of balloons, which are bright primary colors and printed with a glossy, shiny ink. A misstep by Stork pops the big blue balloon and wakes Tiger up, but it's o.k. - it's time for her surprise birthday party!

More Books by Britta Teckentrup:

Source: Review Copy


Oskar Loves . . . by Britta Teckentrup

Oskar loves . . . is the newest picture book written and illustrated by a favorite of mine, Britta Teckentrup and is published by Prestel, one of the world's leading publishers in the fields of art, architecture, photography and design. This focus lends itself to the beautifully produced books, from trim size to quality of paper, colors and design, that Prestel produces. Oskar loves . . . , with a sturdy paper-over-board cover, thick pages and matte colors is no exception.

Oskar loves . . . is a sweetly simple book with black text on the white verso page and Oskar doing what he loves on the recto. Oskar loves a lot of great things and it's fun to watch him enjoy himself as he enjoys the smell of spring and the yellow autumn leaves.

It's a treat to watch Oskar "watch the world from above," and "take his little fluffy cloud for a walk." Oskar also loves to "lose himself in books . . . and pictures." He loves the rain, the sun, "walking in the moonlight . . .and the silence of snow." Teckentrup ends her book by asking readers, "What do you love?"

 Perfect for little listeners, Oskar loves . . . will engage them and, when you get to the last page, start a conversation. For reviews of other books by Britta Teckentrup, click HERE.

Coming soon from Britta Teckentrup

Also by Britta Teckentrup:

Source: Review Copy


Goodnight Everyone by Chris Haughton

Goodnight Everyone is the fourth picture book by Chris Haughton I have reviewed since 2010 when he became a fast favorite. Haughton's unique palette of colors, not often seen in picture books, combined with his lovable, if sometimes hapless characters and clever stories make him an author and illustrator worth following. With Goodnight Everyone, Haughton has created a picture book that is sure to make readers and listeners yawn alike and also make you look at the night sky a bit more closely.

The endpapers of Goodnight Everyone show the southern and northern night skies on one side of the page and the planets in our galaxy, along with which part of the earth is experiencing day and night, on the other. You will definitely find yourself returning to these pages.

The sun is going down and the eyes of the forest animals are drooping. The first few pages of Goodnight Everyone are cut and layered to reveal the animals falling asleep, from mice to bears, with each page turn, the size of the page increasing with the size of the animals. Baby bear, like most small children, resists the call to sleep, but eventually succumbs. While Goodnight Everyone may seem like a sweet and simple story at first, multiple readings (and you WILL be asked to read this book over and over) reveal the many subtle wonders of Haughton's visual story telling skills. As the story unfolds and night falls, the palette darkens gradually. In the layered page spread at start of the book, the grass at the bottom of the pages darkens gradually with every turn. And, the final spread where we see all the forest animals asleep reveals the northern night sky with a spread of constellations, accurately displayed, as the end papers confirm. Another superb picture book from a rising star.

More marvelous books by Chris Haughton!

Little Owl Lost

Oh No, George!

Shh! We Have a Plan

Source: Review Copy


The Boy Who Fell Off the Mayflower or John Howland's Good Fortune by P. J. Lynch

I have long admired the artwork of P.J. Lynch, ever since I read Melisande, E. Nesbit's fairy tale about a princess who, cursed at birth, grows up bald, but happy until an overlooked wish is uncovered and things go awry. In what I am pretty sure is his first picture book as both author and illustrator, The Boy Who Fell Off the Mayflower or John Howland's Good Fortune, P.J. Lynch proves that he is as gifted a story teller with words as he is with pictures. Together, his talents increase exponentially.

Lynch begins his story in London, a fine city that smells horrible. John Howland, indentured servant to John Carver and narrator of The Boy Who Fell Off the Mayflower or John Howland's Good Fortune, works mostly as a messenger for Carver. Preparing for the journey across the Atlantic, Howland plays a key role "copying out lists of supplies and letters to the business men" who were lending money to fund the journey. It interested me to learn that Howland was literate. Lynch, both with words and pictures, makes the harsh, brutal journey vivid in the cold, wetness and squalid living situations that he brings to life. 

Things don't get much better when the Mayflower reaches land, with half of their people dead or dying by the time they reached land. The continued struggles of the pilgrims were grim, but the arrival of Squanto, a Patuxet who was kidnapped and taken to England where he lived for years, learning to speak English fluently. When he was finally able to return to his tribe, he found them decimated by plague brought by the white man. Squanto and John Howland's interactions were possibly the most fascinating part of the story for me, after Lynch's magnificent illustrations, of course.


What makes The Boy Who Fell Off the Mayflower or John Howland's Good Fortune stand out from the many other picture books about the Mayflower, the Pilgrims and the first Thanksgiving, which is broached here, is the first person narrative of Howland. Not only did he survive the crossing and the first challenging years of the Plymouth Colony, it is interesting to learn that he had never planned on staying in the first place. Howland had three years to go on his servitude. When his master and eventually his master's wife died, leaving him free, he prepared to leave but didn't. P.J. Lynch has managed to take a story that I thought I knew so well I was bored with and made it interesting to me again, as I know he will do for all readers fortunate enough to pick up this gorgeous, important book.

More books by P.J. Lynch:


Source: Review Copy