Books by Alison Jay

LOOKING FOR YESTERDAY by Alison Jay
CHILDREN'S
Released: Aug. 20, 2019

"This contemplative blend of philosophy, science, and whimsy will get readers thinking. (Picture book. 3-7)"
A young tot wishes to relive a favorite day instead of looking ahead toward new ones. Read full book review >
MY BED IS AN AIR BALLOON by Julia Copus
CHILDREN'S
Released: Oct. 30, 2018

"A light bedtime story for children with a taste for whimsy and nonsense. (Picture book. 4-7)"
Dreamy sights and imaginary creatures surround children floating in their beds in this sleepy rhyming picture book. Read full book review >
A LADY HAS THE FLOOR by Kate Hannigan
Released: Jan. 30, 2018

"An excellent, well-researched model of its genre that will inspire children to do whatever they desire in life, no matter what immediate restrictions exist. (author's note, timeline, bibliography, source notes) (Picture book/biography. 8-11)"
Belva Lockwood was a teacher, a lawyer (first woman to enter the bar of the U.S. Supreme Court), a suffragist, and a presidential candidate. Read full book review >
BEE & ME by Alison Jay
by Alison Jay, illustrated by Alison Jay
CHILDREN'S
Released: March 14, 2017

"A sweet bee idyll. (Picture book. 3-5)"
A little girl befriends a lost bumblebee in this wordless picture book. Read full book review >
OUT OF THE BLUE by Alison Jay
CHILDREN'S
Released: June 1, 2014

"A beautiful if rather sprawling beach book. (Picture book. 3-7)"
Jay's distinctive media and style combine to present a wordless, fantastic beach story of adventure and compassion. Read full book review >
A GIFT FOR MAMA by Linda Ravin Lodding
CHILDREN'S
Released: March 25, 2014

"Treat this lovely story as a gift worth sharing. (note) (Picture book. 4-8)"
An earnest boy walks the streets of turn-of-the-20th-century Vienna, seeking the perfect present for his mother's birthday. Read full book review >
THE CLOUD SPINNER by Michael Catchpool
CHILDREN'S
Released: March 13, 2012

"There are definitely lessons about taking only what you need, about care for the needs of others and about listening to what is unsaid, but they are fully inside the story and only add to the pleasure. (Picture book. 5-8)"
A boy with a singular talent catches the eye of the king, with ominous results, but it turns out well. Read full book review >
WELCOME TO THE ZOO by Alison Jay
ANIMALS
Released: Oct. 1, 2008

This whimsical zoo is a wonder. Clean oils overlaid with crackling varnish portray the busy zoo in a series of snapshots, each double-page spread offering a glimpse into fanciful human-animal interactions. While a family of four views the exhibits, the free-roaming animals observe the human visitors dressed in colorful hats and formal attire. The traditional zoo roles are hilariously reversed: The primates read the paper, but the elongated human figures, in black-and-white ensembles, resemble statuesque penguins. Numerous stories are developed continuously in this wordless narrative; each page turn enhances the drama. Smaller details shine, from a hat blowing in the wind to an ostrich's victory over his zookeeper pursuer. Dominant characters are depicted against soft blue, gold and green backdrops; the tiger's tongue uncurling as his mouth stretches in an enormous yawn fully captures the animal's personality. Jay encourages the audience to peruse the pages again, offering unusual details in each viewing. Children will delight in visiting this magical place, where the wacky animals are the well-deserved premier attraction. (Picture book. 4-8)Read full book review >
123 by Alison Jay
CHILDREN'S
Released: Sept. 1, 2007

Jay offers a worthy companion to her ABC: A Child's First Alphabet Book (2003) that is winsome and clever, with many layers to explore. It opens with, "1 one little girl sleeping" and readers see Jay's blue crescent moon shining over a little girl with blonde braids asleep with her fairy-tale volume open on the bed. Follow what she dreams of on her Mother Goose flight—three little pigs, seven magic beans, nine golden eggs—as each number reflects a particular familiar fairy tale. At ten, count back—eight fancy footmen, four royal mattresses—and each heroine from Sleeping Beauty to Red Riding Hood has the golden braids of the sleeping child. The final spread shows the sweet-faced sun shining on the "1 one little girl waking" and her bright room filled with toys and objects from her story-filled dreams. The pictures, in Jay's signature vibrant craquelature surfaces, connect fragments of each story to the others, making something to enjoy again and again. At the back, she identifies the 16 stories referenced within. Just wonderful. (Picture book. 4-7)Read full book review >
WHAT STAR IS THIS? by Joseph Slate
CHILDREN'S
Released: Sept. 1, 2005

The author of the Miss Bindergarten series turns his attention to the Christmas star in this creative explanation for the stellar phenomenon that led the Wise Men and the shepherds to Bethlehem. In just a few lines of simple, rhyming text, Slate introduces the concept of comets, with one particular comet blasting on a special errand toward Earth. This comet is personified as a character, with a face like the man in the moon, and its particular mission is spreading good will as it lights the way for those seeking "the One." The repeated refrain of the titular question is neatly answered with a double meaning by angels who point out that "the Star" everyone is seeking is actually the Christ Child. Jay's stunning illustrations in folk-art style are in oils with a crackled finish that imparts an ancient air, though the layout and dramatically dark backgrounds are distinctly modern. The text is set in an unusual typeface, often flowing through the illustrations in white against midnight-blue skies, echoing the comet's careening path through space. (Picture book. 3-7)Read full book review >
THE EMPEROR’S NEW CLOTHES by Marcus Sedgwick
ANIMALS
Released: Sept. 1, 2004

A fairly ho-hum rhymed version of the Andersen tale, almost saved by whimsical and sly illustrations by the empress of crackle-glaze and skewed perspective herself. Says the king, who is a lion of course, albeit one who walks upright, "What I need, I do declare, / is a brand new suit of clothes to wear. / Clothes to make my people see / what a fine king they have in me!" When two weasel tailors appear, and announce they can make those clothes and enspell them so that they can only be seen by the wise, even children who don't know the story will see through these rascals. Jay's figures, as always have large gently rounded bodies and small heads and limbs, and her pictures are full of beautiful details, elegant small objects, window vistas, and landscapes. The inherent humor in seeing a tortoise walking upright with the gold key of his office round his neck or a nervous piggy valet culminates in the final panel, where a small frog who tells the truth exposes the undressed lion rampant. He isn't very naked, of course, being a lion, but his favorite royal object, a hand-held mirror (reflective side down) is strategically placed. (Picture book/fairytale. 5-8)Read full book review >
I TOOK THE MOON FOR A WALK by Carolyn Curtis
CHILDREN'S
Released: March 1, 2004

This lyrical story follows an unnamed little boy as he befriends the full moon and walks with it on a summer night. The rhyming text is told in first person, with the repetitive, soothing refrain of the words from the title effectively echoing throughout. The huge, man-in-the-moon character comes down to earth to interact with the boy, and the child later grabs the moon's hand to fly along in one spread. The illustrations employ some sophisticated perspectives, such as one page showing the moon and its reflection in a river, followed by an illustration of the boy and his reflection sandwiched between the moon and its reflection in a closer perspective. Jay's surrealistic oil paintings in muted jewel tones on ivory backgrounds are created by using a crackling varnish, which lends her illustrations an air of antique art. Two pages of additional material about the moon and the world at night are included. (Picture book. 3-7)Read full book review >
ABC by Alison Jay
ABC BOOKS
Released: Sept. 1, 2003

Many of the elements that appear in Jay's whimsically mysterious paintings—the oversized fruit, the winsome blue crescent moon, the elongated figures with plump midsections and attenuated limbs—reappear in this abecedarian. Each page has the appropriate letter in upper and lower case, and a simple phrase: "a is for apple / b is for balloon" and so on. But besides the named words, each page includes a number of words not in the text: "i is for ice cream" has an island and an iguana; "p is for panda" has said panda at a picnic with pears, pie, a peach, and so on. In addition, there is one item that belongs with the next letter, hinting at what's to come. All the extra words are listed at the back. In Jay's signature crackled-paint surface and limpid pure colors, she includes an artist girl and an explorer boy; they have enough to do that an alert child (or adult reader) can mess around with inventing a story once the letters become familiar. Very, very nice. (Picture book. 2-6)Read full book review >
IF KISSES WERE COLORS by Janet Lawler
CHILDREN'S
Released: March 1, 2003

Jay's brilliant imagination and artistry make this rather pedestrian, baby love song shine. The text is a simple and just-short-of-saccharine rhyme of parent-to-baby kisses: "If kisses were acorns, a forest would grow / of beautiful oak trees, in row after row. . . . If kisses were blankets, / you'd always be warm, / wrapped up from the cold / during winter's worst storm." It's all very sweet and affectionate. Jay's pictures, however, partake of the wonderful inspiration that made her art for Picture This (2000) and A World of Wonders (p. 48) so remarkable. She uses alkyd oil paint on paper with a crackling varnish; the result seems to capture sunlit colors behind a slightly crazed glass surface. Her pictures inhabit a dreamlike landscape where a baby sits in a sunflower-decorated carriage nearly as tall as a tree, and animals in exuberant dress (the bunny is wearing polka dots, the elephant a striped bathing suit) dance beneath a rainbow. The sun wears a smile, and the acorn, facing a page of oaks, is a winsome and solid presence with a face like a grandfather clock. A distant and not as wittily composed cousin to Baby Hearts and Baby Flowers (2001), but the pictures repay reading and rereading. (Picture book. 3-6)Read full book review >
THE RACE by Caroline Repchuk
CHILDREN'S
Released: April 1, 2001

In Repchuk's clever, if clumsily rhymed and paced, remake of this oddly popular fable (Margery Cuyler's Roadsigns: A Hare-y Race with a Tortoise, 2000; Lucy Floyd's Rabbit and Turtle Go To School, 2000; Helen Ward's Hare and the Tortoise, 1999; etc.), Tortoise and Hare race from England to New York City—the long way 'round. Tortoise saunters aboard an ocean liner; Hare roars off in a zippy red sports car. As Tortoise enjoys cocktails and leisurely stopovers, Hare runs into a series of misadventures—"Hare shot down the raging river. / That poor old bunny was all aquiver. / He sped past snatching claws—and jaws!— / then hauled himself up with tired paws"—arriving at the finish to find Tortoise there ahead of him. "Poor Hare, he was sadly deflated. / It turned out that speed was overrated. . . ." Though the race's result is the same, there's a certain reversal of character here that makes for a refreshing change—and young viewers may enjoy picking out from Jay's crackle-finished scenes the famous landmarks the harried Hare passes on his disaster-strewn journey. (Picture book. 6-8)Read full book review >
WILLIAM AND THE NIGHT TRAIN by Mij Kelly
BEDTIME BOOK
Released: March 21, 2001

Even children who, like William, are "switched on like a light" when bedtime rolls around will drift off as the "train that goes to tomorrow" fills up with drowsy travelers: "Teachers and jugglers, sacks, cats, and packages, piglets in baskets and babies in bundles." William's fellow passengers have exaggeratedly wide middles and tiny extremities, as if viewed in a funhouse mirror, but the distortion is more comic than eerie, and suits the illustrations' curves and slanting perspectives to a "Z." Each car features a different arrangement of picture and words: sometimes text runs around the outside, sometimes it separates two-thirds from the rest, occasionally it rests on top of the illustration, and once it is even in the smoke of the train in a full-bleed spread. The train starts up at last; William cuddles close to his mother, listening to her heart and closing his wide eyes. Here they are flanked by a swooping train on the track, as the seat becomes a pasture. The engineer in his nightgown and stocking cap stands at the throttle as the train is "filling the world with billows of steam, soft see-through clouds that turn into dreams." Then suddenly it's coming into the station beneath a rising sun. A truly memorable ride, this ticket to dreamland will be good for many repeated trips. (Picture book. 4-6)Read full book review >
CHILDREN'S
Released: March 1, 2001

In catchy, clever verse, the prolific Lewis (Earth and You: A Closer View, not reviewed, etc.) plays with place names, marvels at the journeys of several explorers, goes "Island Hopping," gads about the cities of Europe, even provides mnemonics to distinguish stalagmites from stalactites, and latitude from longitude—"Lines of latitude / Have a f l a t i t u d e. / Longitudinal lines / Rise like porcupines." The crackle finish on Jay's smoothly brushed artwork seems a bit mannered, but she adds plenty of imaginative visual twists to the poems; while the Red, Yellow, and Black Seas, for instance, flow out of oil-paint tubes, the Dead Sea comes from a salt shaker, and the Poles, described as "continental / Plates of white ice cream," are each capped by a jauntily-angled cookie. Lewis closes on an earnest note, urging readers to "Walk Lightly" upon the Earth. Young globetrotters and armchair travelers alike will happily climb aboard for the ride: "Go by yourself or invite a good friend / But traveling by poem is what I recommend." (Poetry. 8-11)Read full book review >