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Showing posts from February, 2019

Once Upon a Snowstorm by Richard Johnson

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 Once Upon a Snowstorm by Richard Johnson Review Copy from Faber & Faber A wordless picture book that calls to mind Raymond Briggs's classic, The Snowman,Once Upon a Snowstorm is a story of friendship that is rich with detail and meaning. A cozy, snow covered cabin in the woods is home to a father and son, a portrait of mom, as well as a couple of animal heads, hang on the walls. When the boy brings an empty plate of food to his father, the two suit up and, gun in the father's hand, they head into the woods. When the growing storm separates them, the boy finds safety in a cave. Waking to find himself surrounded by forest animals, they become friends, warily at first. Soon, they are dancing and playing, sharing food and water, and painting on the walls. There, the boy paints a scene from his home life and worries about his father. Using the boy's painting as a map, the bear carries him home. The boy stops his father, who aims his gun at the bear, and they shake hands instea…

The Snow Lion by Jim Helmore and Richard Jones

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The Snow Lion by Jim Helmore and Richard Jones Review Copy from Peachtree Press Caro and her mum move to a new house on a hill where the walls are white, the ceiling is white and even the doors are white. She finds lots of places to explore, but she's lonely. Until the Snow Lion appears! They play together all day long, until one day the Snow Lion asks Caro if she has ever tried the slide in the park? She decides to give it a try and there she meets a new friend! The Snow Lion even encourages Caro to go to her new friend's house for a playdate. They play Pirate Spaceship and eat chocolate cake and have a great time. But when Caro's mum decides to have a painting party and put some color in the house, Caro worries about the Snow Lion - will he still have a home? Caro looks for him everywhere, but the house feels empty. Finally, as it begins to snow, she sees him outside in the garden where he tells her that lions are really happier outside. They hug and promise to see each oth…

Little Fox in the Snow by Jonathan London, illustrated by Daniel Miyares

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Little Fox in the Snow written by Jonathan London, illustrated byDaniel Miyares Review Copy fromCandlewick Press Little Fox in the Snow is not what I expected, and wonderfully so. London delivers a tale that is as crisp and sparse as the snowy forest Miyares depicts in his illustrations. Starting in the warm den of the little fox, we follow him as hunger draws him "like a bow," into the woods where he must, "seek your target. You must hunt!" With poetic text, readers follow the fox as he flows, "like a shadow across the fields," and laps, "tiny tongue-curls of icy cold water" from a "snow-patched stream." The little fox catches a mouse, an illustration showing him with it in his mouth. Later, he captures and eats a snowshoe hare, although this happens off the page. As the fox is heading home, he thinks he smells a vixen. Instead, in a dramatic illustration, a wolverine bursts from the shadows and gives chase. The book ends with the little…

Wolf in the Snow by Matthew Cordell

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Wolf in the Snow by Matthew Cordell Purchased from Books of Wonder in NYC Winner of the 2018 Caldecott Medal
In this stunning, wordless picture book that feels a bit like Blueberries for Sal meets Little House on the Prairie with a sprinkle of all-things-William Steig, Matthew Cordell tells a timeless story with a powerful message that is especially meaningful in our fractured time. 
A girl leaves a school in a rural neighborhood as snow begins to fall. A wolf pack travels across the plains, a pup falling behind. Huffing and whining, the two come face to snout, eye to eye. While their is fear in their eyes, there is also connection. Together, they wade through the snow, heading toward a distant howl. Reuniting the pup with its mother, the girls struggles on towards lights and barking in the distance, but she is weak. Falling to the ground, the pack of wolves surrounds the girl and begins to howl until the barking gets close. She is found. A beautiful illustration shows a parent lifting he…

Harriet Gets Carried Away by Jessie Sima

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Harriet Gets Carried Away by Jessie Sima Review Copy from Simon & Schuster Harriet Gets Carried Away is yet another adorable book from Sima, author of Not Quite Narwhal (see below). Her palette choices for her books remind me of a bakery case full of macarons or a candy store gone wild and her illustration style is warm and comforting. What I love most about Harriet Gets Carried Away is the fact that Harriet has two dads, one black and one white, and that is not part of the story at all. And, Harriet herself, being biracial or black, stands out as a black girl main character in a time when less than 10% of characters in kid's books are African / African American.
Harriet loves costumes and she wears them everywhere, all the time, and has just the right costume for every event. Getting ready for her birthday, Harriet (in her penguin costume with a red bow tie) and her dads head to the store for snacks and, "lots of party hats!" Harriet gets carried away - literally - whe…

The Very Last Castle by Travis Jonker, pictures by Mark Pett

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The Very Last Castle words by Travis Jonker pictures by Mark Pett Review Copy from Abrams Kids
At a time when talk of building walls dominates, a book like The Very Last Castle about the power and joy of connections and community is more than welcome. A castle still stands in the middle of a small town where once there were many. The other castles had all been, "taken down, or fallen apart, or been destroyed. All but one. For reasons no one could remember, no one ever came out. And no one was allowed in."
Then there was Ibb. A curious girl and an independent thinker, Ibb considers the wild theories about what might be hiding inside the castle (monsters, giants, snakes) and wonders about the lone guard still stationed there. Ibb walks up to the drawbridge and gives a brave knock, only to be frightened off. However, her act does not go unnoticed and she is in invited into the castle where she finds topiary monsters and giant fruits and vegetables growing in a beautiful garden along …

Ta-Da! by Kathy Ellen Davis, illustrated by Kaylani Juanita

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Ta-Da! by Kathy Ellen Davis,  illustrated by Kaylani Juanita Review Copy from Chronicle Books Ta-Da! begins, "Once upon a time, a girl lived in a crystal castle on a hill. She had lots of animal friends and was very happy." But, "DUN DUN DUH!" A boy and his dog (a wizard and a dragon) arrive and an imagination filled day fueled by fantastical adventures is underway. "Ta-Da!" and "DUN DUN DUH!" take turns throughout the book, as the story moves from sailing into the sunset to being taken prisoner by a pirate. An island vacation becomes a fiery sneeze. Fortunately, the girl had, "trained in flamethrowing her whole life," and was able to avert disaster - even when the dragon drank so much water he had to go to the bathroom. The girl makes a dragon-sized toilet with magical toilet paper that never runs out! The two join forces to put on a magic show then head to the kitchen for snack time, the one-upmanship of earlier replaced with collaborati…

Marley Dias Gets It Done and So Can You! by Marley Dias, with Siobhan McGowan, introduction by Ava DuVernay 208 pp, RL 4

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Marley Dias Gets It Done and So Can You! by Marley Dias, with Siobhan McGowan Introduction by Ava DuVernay Purchased from Barnes & Noble As a fifth grader, Dias, who is now thirteen, was frustrated that the "classics" she was being required to read for school were consistently, if not singularly, about white boys and their dogs. If there had been just one book about, "a black girl and her dog . . . A braniac black girl astronaut with her trailblazing space poodle exploring the rings of Saturn . . . A fierce black girl fashion designer with her frisky Rottweiler on a rhinestone leash, owning the streets of the city . . . A fearless black girl forensic archaeologist with her inquisitive collie, uncovering fossil remains of some prehistoric species . . . If only, then none of this would have happened." #1000BlackGirlBooks is what happened. With a nudge and some very knowing help from her mother, Dr. Janice Johnson Dias, and the organization she is president of, GrassR…

(Still) Thinking About Diversity in Kid's Books

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A couple weeks back, I listened to an interview with Angie Thomas, author ofThe Hate U Give, about her new book, The Come Up, on It's Been a Minute with Sam Sanders. It is a great interview (her mom even weighs in at one point) but she said something that I couldn't stop thinking about. Thomas mentioned that, while she was finishing edits for her first book and thinking about sending it out to literary agents, she heard a statistic stating that there were more kid's books featuring trucks and animals as main characters than black kids. A week or so later, reading Marley Dias's Marley Dias Gets It Done and So Can You! and thinking about her #1000BlackGirlBooks campaign, I wondered if she was trying to collect 1,000 books with black girls as the main character or just 1,000 books total. Are there actually 1,000 different kid's books with black girls as the main character? Yes! There are, and you can find them here!
And then I fell down a rabbit hole of statistics abou…

The Neighbors by Einat Tsarfati, translated from Hebrew by Annette Appel

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The Neighbors by Einat Tsarfati Review Copy from Abrams Kids
With red rain boots, a yellow slicker and a froggy-green umbrella with bulgy eyes in hand, the narrator tells us that she lives in a building that is seven stories tall. As she approaches the entry way, the first of many handmade signs looking for a lost hamster can be seen. In the lobby, where there are more posters and an assortment of mailboxes, each and every one different, she tells us that every floor has a "slightly different door." Simple in plot, but absolutely, completely entertaining and engaging, the narrator stops on each landing, making note of what makes each door slightly different. With a page turn, the narrator tells us who lives behind the door and a little bit about them. Each two page spread reveals a richly detailed scene with so many things to pore over. Readers with a keen eye will spot the "lost" hamster frolicking behind each and every door.
While the reader may never be sure if the …