Books by Holly Meade

Caldecott Honoree Holly Meade begins her children's-book projects with lots of sketches. Painting, stamping and finally collaging get her to her finished illustrations. Kirkus called her latest book, If I Never Forever Endeavor, "[a]n irresistible invitation to test those wings and fly," in a starred review. Meade lives and works on the coast of Maine.

IN THE SEA by David Elliott
Released: Feb. 14, 2012

"This mix of clever poems, handsome art and well-chosen typography, despite a few minor flaws, will function equally well for bedtime sharing and early-learning settings. (Picture book/poetry. 3-6)"
This third pairing of Elliott's reductive poems and Meade's bold woodcut-and-watercolor illustrations dives deep to explore sea creatures, from tiny shrimp to the mighty blue whale. Read full book review >
NAAMAH AND THE ARK AT NIGHT by Susan Campbell Bartoletti
Released: Aug. 1, 2011

"This captivating interpretation creates a remarkable partner for Noah, who uses her special talent in a memorable way. (Picture book. 3-7)"
The animals march along two by two in most Noah's Ark stories, but Noah's partner is often missing altogether. In this unusual interpretation of one of the most popular Bible stories, it's Noah's wife who is the star as she sings the arkful of animals to sleep. Read full book review >
Released: April 11, 2011

To fly or not to fly is the question for a little bird weighing the pros and cons of launching into the unknown. Perched in his comfy nest, the fledgling nervously wonders if he can fly. "On the one wing," he muses, he might "flail, / flounder and / plummet, / look foolish / and fail." But "on the other wing," he might "rise high and / float free." If he endeavors, he could "sail through the trees" and "see the world"—or get very lost. As he watches other birds flying, the fledgling tentatively gives his wings a "little flap" and, before he knows it, he's flying! Meade effectively uses rhyme ("forever," "endeavor," "whether," "clever"), onomatopoeia ("flutter," "thwack," "thud," "thump," "flap") and repetition to accentuate the fledgling's inner conflict, while words like "swoop," "soar," "glide" and "dare" reinforce his eventual triumph. Stunning collages of textured linoleum block prints and watercolors span double-page spreads to showcase the wee yellow bird warily peeking out of his nest on a pine bough as he debates and imagines himself soaring as well as plummeting. Loosely applied brush strokes evoke the swooping and gliding of birds and, in one humorous sequence, the fledgling literally flutters and flaps across the page. An irresistible invitation to test those wings and fly. (Picture book. 4-8)Read full book review >
IN THE WILD by David Elliott
Released: Aug. 1, 2010

A stunning combination of poems and illustrations celebrating some of Earth's wildest and most beautiful creatures. Meade's woodcut-print-and-watercolor illustrations fill page after page with striking images of each featured animal in its habitat. Every page spread is saturated with vivid colors and shapes, simultaneously drawing attention to the boldly rendered animal at its heart and making space for a poem, printed in large, clear type, that pays further tribute to the creature pictured. Elliott's poems, with their spot-on rhythm, playful rhyme and precise use of language, capture something essential about each animal. The jaguar, for example, grows on her back delicate rosettes "and yet / there's danger in the jaguar's gait, / a soundless step that warns: / Beware of jungle-raised bouquets. / Beware these hidden thorns." The poems, though they employ some sophisticated vocabulary, are short and direct, a feature that will demonstrate to verse-averse young readers that poetry can be powerful and pleasurable without being too complicated or threatening. (Picture book/poetry. 4-10) Read full book review >
Released: July 1, 2009

A present-tense evocation of the season leads ineluctably to Halloween: "WHEN neighbors rake fallen leaves into piles, / and the sky is that certain deep blue, / and bins of pumpkins arrive at the grocery store… / THEN bring one home and scoop and carve…." Brenner's gentle text captures the anticipation and the execution of a perfect Halloween, well-chosen words and a keen understanding of what's important ("Dump the bags of candy on the floor") getting to the heart of the event. Meade's watercolor collages modulate from the vibrant hues of early autumn to the washed-out golds and greens of late October in the North Country, depicting flocks of children trick-or-treating in an idealized, cheerfully lit neighborhood. The way Halloween should be. (Picture book. 4-8)Read full book review >
ON THE FARM by David Elliott
Released: March 1, 2008

Energetic woodcuts accompany playfully simple poems as they give young readers an engaging tour of the barnyard. From the usual suspects—rooster, cow, sheep—to some of the less celebrated denizens of the farm—snake, bees, turtle—each poem varies to suit its subject. The barn cat's verse is succinct: "Mice / had better / think twice." The snake's winds its way down the page in sinuous shape. At their best, Elliott's images are unexpected and all the more lovely: The turtle "Lifts her fossil head / and blinks / one, two, three / times in the awful light." Others are not so successful, but Meade's illustrations give them credence: The rooster "Crows and struts. / He's got feathers! / He's got guts!" This rhythmic but rather opaque assertion is accompanied by an oversized rooster who dominates the foreground; eyes shut in concentration, he levitates himself with the force of his crow—the very embodiment of "guts." Farmyard books are a dime a dozen, but this one is a worthwhile addition, for those poems that reach beyond the ordinary and for the good-natured illustrations that complement them. (Picture book/poetry. 2-5)Read full book review >
VIRGINNIE’S HAT by Dori Chaconas
Released: May 1, 2007

Illustrations outshine text in this tale of thwarted predation. When Virginnie loses her hat to a gust of wind, it gets stuck in a tree, much to its owner's frustration. She takes off one boot, then the other, to throw them into the tree and dislodge the hat. Unbeknownst to Virginnie, however, first a crayfish, then a snake, then an alligator each decide to snack on her toes, only to be driven off when an airborne boot comes crashing down on them. The conceit is quite clever, and the illustrations are divine: Meade's watercolor collage images make the most of the liquid nature of the medium, the blurring colors evoking the swamp with mastery, and Virginnie (and her toes) rendered to exude vigor and personality. Chaconas's faux-folksy verse text, however, strains at times to maintain scansion and rhyme, resulting in an awkward read-aloud that does not do justice either to story or to illustrations. Countrified expressions—"yee-haw!" and elided g's at the ends of most, but not all, participles—seem artificially imposed rather than rising naturally from the text. A cryin' shame. (Picture book. 3-7)Read full book review >
SKY SWEEPER by Phillis Gershator
Released: April 9, 2007

Young Takeboki takes a job as a Flower Keeper. Throughout the years, he sweeps up blossoms in the monks' temple with absolute dedication, despite suggestions that he find a job with a future and look for a wife. He knows that "the monks need a temple, the temple needs a garden and the garden needs a Flower Keeper." No one perceives his efforts, but Takeboki is not bothered. Even when he grows old and wears shabby clothes, he sees himself as rich with the gold of the fallen leaves. It is not until he grows ill and takes to his bed that people notice all he has done, but it is too late to thank him; by the time the monks arrive, Takeboki has died with a contented smile on his face and moved on to a new place where he sweeps the sky. Infused with a Buddhist sensibility, written in clear, minimalist language, accompanied by rich, organic illustrations and culminating in a haiku by Moritake, this is an original fable not to be missed. Includes an explanatory note on Japanese gardens. (Picture book. 5-8)Read full book review >
Released: March 1, 2005

Stilted text and a convoluted concept cause this latest effort from Meade to flounder. In conversational-style text, a sibling pair creates an imaginative game in which they start with a minuscule object and place it into subsequently larger and larger containers, beginning with a small marble and ending with everything inside a clothes hamper tucked inside a shower. Mead then segues from the children physically manipulating the objects for the game to letting them illustrate the concept in elaborate drawings that eventually expand to encompass the Solar System. The idea and game are clever; however, their execution in a picture-book format for young readers simply does not work. Preschoolers will soon be lost under the weight of the wordy text and older readers—who could really embrace the concept—may be put off by the format and illustrations oriented towards a younger audience. Truly a book caught betwixt and between, this is hard put to be placed inside any category. (Picture book. 3-8)Read full book review >
PEEK! by Minfong Ho
Released: Sept. 1, 2004

From the Caldecott Honor-winning team of Hush! A Thai Lullaby (1996), an engaging, repetitive rhyme in which a father asks, "Jut-Ay, want to play?" inviting his young daughter to play peek-a-boo, although she's already begun the game, donning her umbrella, leading the reader over the window sill, outdoors, and into the story. "Jut-Ay, peek-a-boo, is that you?" the father exclaims to each animal he encounters, all while his daughter hides in the background. Onomatopoetic text conveys animal responses to the father's query. The story concludes with the little girl gleefully exclaiming, "I found you!" Father and daughter are face to face, he with her umbrella, she with his straw hat, and an encore appearance of the animals he has met. Meade's watercolor and cut-paper collages are drenched in tropical colors: chartreuse, apricot, bright blue. Curving lines, intersecting planes comprised of juxtaposed textures—a sheer fluttering curtain, wood-slatted blinds, and a woven rattan basket echo the game's energy. Young readers will delight in finding the little girl and her umbrella hiding in each luscious, sun-drenched scene. (Picture book. 3-6)Read full book review >
Released: May 1, 2004

A mother speaks rhythmically to her small child, using repetition and old-fashioned phrasing: "Lift your arms up, little baby. . . . Lift the bowl to make our bread, / down the blue bowl, little baby." Mother and child "walk the water" from the well, light the lantern, stir the flour in the blue bowl, "roll it up and push it down." The dough rests in the blue bowl beside the wood stove, and the child, who looks about four, gets tucked into a loft bed to dream about bread. In the morning, Mama has baked the loaves in time for breakfast. The watercolor and collage images take the simplest of shapes and colors—like the flour and water—to make homespun goodness. The author's note reflects on the family tradition of bread-baking that inspired her story. Sweet and wonderful to read aloud. (Picture book. 4-8)Read full book review >
THAT’S WHAT FRIENDS ARE FOR by Florence Parry Heide
Released: May 1, 2003

Poor Theodore Elephant is hobbled—an injured leg means he can't meet his cousin at the edge of the forest. He considers asking his friends for advice. "Nonsense," declares practical opossum, "Friends are to help." If Theodore can't go to his cousin, the friends will bring his cousin to Theodore. First published in 1968 with illustrations by Caldecott Honor-winner Brinton Turkle, this cumulative tale of caring is here animated by another Caldecott-winner's collages of carefully prepared and painted papers. Artful scratches and swirls give elephantine texture to wrinkly Theodore and make a lion's mane luxurious, and rainforest-ripe colors cause even the smallest creature to pop from the pages. Contact shadows and a variety of edges and background treatments add depth and movement, while pin-point touches of black convey an extraordinary range of expressions. Particularly effective is a sun-seared sienna silhouette of the animals' trek, leading to a memorable denouement: "To give advice is very nice, but friends can do much more. Friends should always help a friend. That's what friends are for!" (Picture book. 3-8)Read full book review >
ON MORNING WINGS by Reeve Lindbergh
Released: Aug. 1, 2002

Lindbergh first recast Psalm 139 in simple, rhymed couplets in her anthology In Every Tiny Grain of Sand (2000). Here, Caldecott Honor Medalist Meade (Hush, 1996) expands the verse with watercolor and collage using geometric forms and color both matte and translucent to create satisfying, accessible images. In the frontispiece, a little girl peers down from her top bunk to see if her little brother, snuggled with his bear, is awake yet. The siblings (and the bear) proceed on a sunlit day to frolic with two friends, one a dark-skinned boy, the other a café-au-lait girl. They climb trees, build sandcastles, play in and by the lake, toast marshmallows, and at last turn in for the night, flashlight at the ready, in a tent outside. The text begins, "Lord, you look at me and know me, / Every step I take, you show me." It continues through the sense of the psalm, "When I'm lonely, you are near, / When I'm angry, you stay here. / High as heaven bright, you greet me, / Down in darkness, too, you meet me." The Divine as an all-caring presence is underscored in the structure of the pictures: no adults appear, but the activities, like boating and building a campfire, imply adult action in loving support and unobtrusive care. There is a certain heaviness to the beat of the couplet format, but that is mitigated somewhat by pictorial clarity and sincere reverence. (Picture book. 4-8)Read full book review >
GOOSE’S STORY by Cari Best
Released: May 1, 2002

Early one spring, a girl is delighted when a flock of Canada geese arrive in her yard, but she is stricken when she realizes one of the geese has an injured foot. The next day, the foot is gone, and the girl wonders how a one-legged goose can possibly survive. In spite of her parents' advice to let the wild animal learn to survive on its own, the girl feeds Goose cracked corn and keeps an eye out for her. One day in the fall, the geese are gone—all of them. The seasons turn, and the geese return, but this time, it's only two: Goose, still with a foot missing, and a big, healthy gander. Best of all, seven goslings soon appear—all with both feet intact. The heartbreaking, ultimately hopeful story is based on a real goose from author Best's (Shrinking Violet, 2001, etc.) own yard, making the happy ending touching rather than overly sentimental. The interplay between the text and the earthy, cut-paper illustrations is remarkable; while the text does not spell out what's happened to Goose's foot, the images of the injured limb evoke shock and sadness. Meade (Queenie Farmer Had Fifteen Daughters, p. 488, etc.) employs a woodsy palette of browns, greens, and blues. A variety of perspectives draws readers into the text: some scenes are portrayed from the girl's point of view, others from Goose's, some from the ground, some from the sky. Art and story complement each another again at the end: the final, spot illustration of Goose nuzzling one of her goslings on the pond while the girl's oar drips in the background is an enlarged portion of the previous spread, and the girl's amazed words repeat: " ‘Look at you,' I whisper, ‘Look at you.' " Quietly joyful, satisfyingly optimistic. (Picture book. 5-8)Read full book review >
A PLACE TO SLEEP by Holly  Meade
Released: Sept. 1, 2001

An assortment of animals and two children choose where to snooze in this colorful, oversized picture book. As always, Meade's (When Papa Snores, 2000, etc.) collage art is striking. This time she works in two very different styles, the first using colorful pieces of cut and torn painted and textured paper to create page-sized pictures, the other on a much smaller scale employing stark black and white in exquisitely designed vignettes placed on an expanse of creamy space. On the right-hand side of the pages, the animals are introduced and depicted in color, their personalities emerging in a few deft strokes. "When this bear needs / to snooze, where / does he choose to / lay down his furry self?" The answer is found by turning the page to see a much smaller bear, depicted in black and white, slumbering in the arms of a tree. The alliterative text is rich in wordplay: the slumbering bear slumps, a sleek seal sleeps, and a "minuscule mouse needs a nest to rest in." Lines of text curve across the opposing and contrasting pages, but this apparent attempt to unify results in some of the words practically disappearing into the gutter, making them difficult to read. Although individual aspects here are delightful, unfortunately they remain separate, and neither the design nor the text is strong enough to unify them. An interesting experiment that doesn't succeed. (Picture book/poetry. 3-6)Read full book review >
Released: May 1, 2001

The author of the provocative Dora's Box (1998) writes a rollicking and rhythmic maternal tale. The day that Queenie's 15 daughters are born, her prize herd of cows runs off, her husband goes off to find them, and neither comes back. But Queenie copes. When the girls are six, they want individual birthday cakes. When they are 12, they want their own beds, and at 16, their own party dresses, rebelling against the bovine black-and-white they wore. In each case, Queenie rises to the occasion. The girls ask for so little, and she wants to give them so much: "She drafted designs on Monday, sawed wood on Tuesday, wove bedspreads on Wednesday, stuffed pillows on Thursday, hammered nails on Friday, and painted all day—and all night—on Saturday." The results were "five cowboy beds, four princess beds, three water beds, two race-car beds, and one hammock." And so it goes. Queenie even manages to locate and interview 15 fiancés for her girls. When the girls produce offspring—quintuplets, quadruplets, and so on—she sells her house, moves to a new one, and entertains all 55 babies every Sunday. But the rest of the week, she does exactly as she pleases. Rosy watercolors with Queenie's signature polka dot motif reflect the bouncy mothers-can-do-everything jollity of the text. Go Queenie. (Picture book. 3-7)Read full book review >
WHEN PAPA SNORES by Melinda Long
Released: Sept. 1, 2000

In this hoot of a picture book, a young girl describes the racket created whenever her grandparents snore. This is no ordinary snoring. For example, "When Papa snores, the lamp at this bedside rattles and shakes," and "when Nana snores, the blinds on the window clink-clank together." Trouble is, it doesn't end there. As the descriptions proceed, the sounds accumulate: Papa's lamp continues to rattle and shake, but added to the din are the sounds of his dresser drawers opening and closing and the mops in the closet dancing the tango, and even worse. Nana's cacophony keeps those blinds clinking and clanking, but in addition, the dishes in the drainer shake themselves dry and the shoes throw themselves downstairs, and so on. The fun continues until the riotous ending, when the truly loudest snorer in the family is revealed. There'll be no snoring when kids listen to this rollicking story. It's perfect for storytimes, especially if adults ham it up with the sound effects provided in the text. The pictures suggest additional sounds occasioned by all the inanimate objects' reactions to the noise. Children won't even wait for the grown-ups to render the sounds; they're bound to chime in on their own. Lively fun. (Picture book. 3-7)Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 1, 1998

Meade (Minfong Ho's Hush!, 1996, etc.) solos for this fine adventure about John Willy and Freddy McGee, guinea pigs whose caged existence is boring. On the day when the cage door is left open, the two daredevils scoot out and start to explore, through the living room and into the game room, where they find the great green landscape (and tunnels) of a pool table. John Willy and Freddy McGee are busy cruising the tunnels when the cat that has been observing them tries to drive the pair into the open by dropping balls into the pockets. John Willy and Freddy McGee are banged about and nearly squashed, but effect an escape and scurry back to the cage and safety. Don't think of this as a cautionary tale on the perils of taking risks; instead, John Willy and Freddy McGee are the Lewis and Clark of their breed, finding not only the will to venture out, but the sense to know when it's time to go home. Particularly remarkable is how Meade, through impressive cut-paper pictures, captures the guinea pigs in their vacant, caged stage, and then, with little anthropomorphization, fashions two personable adventurers, full of brio. (Picture book. 3-8) Read full book review >
BOSS OF THE PLAINS by Laurie Carlson
Released: April 1, 1998

Carlson celebrates the crowning (so to speak) achievement of John Batterson Stetson, a Philadelphia hatmaker who went West for his health in the 1850s and invented the emblematic piece of cowboy gear still identified with him, heavy enough to keep off the rain, wide enough to block the sun, tough enough to stand years of abuse—or, as some said, ``you can smell it across a room, but you just can't wear it out.'' Meade surrounds this lively odyssey with a kaleidoscope of brightly painted collage cowboy scenes, taking her ruddy-bearded artisan from his boyhood home in New Jersey to the gold fields of Pikes Peak, then back East where he found his fortune at last. Carlson closes her account with a biographical note while a cowboy poet's heartfelt tribute appears on the back of the jacket. Steer readers who want to know more about Stetson, or about western fashion in general, to M. Jean Greenlaw's Ranch Dressing (1993). (bibliography) (Picture book/biography. 7-9) Read full book review >
COCOA ICE by Diana Appelbaum
Released: Sept. 1, 1997

In the late 19th century, American schooners brought ice, refined sugar, and other goods to Santo Domingo to exchange for cocoa and coffee beans, and out of that Appelbaum spins a fine story of two children who love chocolate ices. In the tropical summer of the island, a girl helps her parents collect, harvest, and prepare cocoa beans, which require a lot of coaxing before the transcendent chocolate flavor is released. She goes with her father when the cocoa is traded to a Yankee mariner; he shares a bag scented with balsam needles, as well as the picture of his niece. The niece, in Maine's hard winter, describes how ice is prepared, cut, and made to keep through the warmer months, and then carried to and traded in Santo Domingo. The strong, flat colors of cut paper and gouache make marvelous images of both endless summer and the seemingly endless winter, and the shared fondness for cocoa ice (as well as a seashell and the balsam bag) enable the girls to reach across their different worlds to connect. A tasty treat. (Picture book. 5-10) Read full book review >
PIE'S IN THE OVEN by Betty G. Birney
Released: Sept. 1, 1996

A sweet celebration of family and friends. Grandma has made apple pies and they're in the oven. As the irresistible smells fill her rambling old house, her apple-cheeked grandson excitedly longs for his share (``Pie's in the oven,/My favorite kind!''). Relatives, the letter carrier, neighbors, friends, even an apple- red fire truck full of firemen are all beckoned: ``Pie's in the oven./You're just in time.'' Soon the house is full of good smells and chatter, milk is poured, plates and forks are set out, the pie is served. Guess who doesn't get any pie? Grandma presents the narrator with a little apple pie, ``Just for me!'' Meade's sky-blue outlined collages are childlike and appealing, as bright as hand- painted pottery and just as welcoming as the text. (Picture book. 3-7) Read full book review >
HUSH! by Minfong Ho
by Minfong Ho, illustrated by Holly Meade
Released: March 1, 1996

From the author of A Clay Marble (1991), a charming, repetitive rhyme (subtitled ``A Thai Lullaby'') in which a mother shushes all the creatures, from a tiny mosquito to a huge elephant, in and around her thatch-roofed house so that her baby can sleep in the blue cloth hammock. However, sharp-eyed readers will notice that each time the mother's back is turned, the child climbs out of the hammock to play. At the end, everyone, including the unsuspecting mother, is asleep—but not the baby! Exceptionally beautiful cut-paper-and-ink illustrations in earth tones use the varied textures of the paper to wonderful effect, depicting traditional Thai textiles, basketry, and building styles. All of young children's favorite elements are here: a reassuringly predictable, rhyming text, animals and their sounds, a mischievous subplot in the pictures, and an ever-so-slightly naughty child who fools everyone in the end. A sure winner. (Picture book. 2-6) Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 1, 1995

Another happy collaboration from the producers of This Is the Hat (1992), this time a trip around all seven continents to show animal and human mothers (but no fathers!) crooning to their sleepy babies. One of the animal pairs rather strains credulityboa constrictors aren't noted for maternal solicitudeand readers may wonder if there would be infants at an Antarctic research station, as pictured, but these are minor cavils at a charming, peaceful book. A variety of animal sounds and ``sleep'' in six languages punctuate the musical, repetitive text. The torn-paper illustrations are collages of beautifully colored and textured papers, with details scratched through the colored layer into the white backing. The picture panels are bordered with designs inspired by the cultures depicted, among them: Navajo, traditional Norwegian, Bolivian Indian, Cantonese. An unusual and very beautiful bedtime book. (Picture book. 1-5) Read full book review >
RATA-PATA-SCATA-FATA by Phillis Gershator
Released: April 1, 1994

A sunny, well-shaped tale about little Junjun, who'd rather dream than do the tasks his busy mother asks him to do. Instead, he utters the eponymous ``Caribbean gobbledy-gook'' (explained in a note as ``an old-time Virgin Islands way of talking nonsense'') in hopes of magical results—and, by happy chance, is rewarded each time: A fisherman happens to drop a fish as he passes, so that Jumjum is spared a trip to fetch one; the goat turns up on its own; tamarinds fall before he must pick them. And each time Junjun has a playful explanation (``The fish got dusty when it swam across town''), while his interchanges with Mommy, however purposeful, remain relaxed and affectionate. Meade's torn-paper collages—rough, white-bordered areas of radiant tropical hues- -are the perfect complement to an engagingly cadenced story that will be just right for sharing aloud. (Picture book. 4-8) Read full book review >
THIS IS THE HAT by Nancy van Laan
Released: Oct. 1, 1992

Van Laan (Possum Come a-Knockin', 1990) tells another story with a rambunctious lilt: a circular tale about a hat, dropped by an old man, put to amusing uses by a variety of humans and other creatures before getting back to its original owner. Sound- mimicking words are worked into the illustrations on every spread, inviting young listeners to join in, and the text can be made to scan, though the reader-aloud will do well to work out the trickier rhythms in advance. In a promising debut, Meade provides what look like collages of torn paper in origami colors, their edges separated by a jagged line of white that defines the simple forms. The effect is colorful, graphically handsome; more important, it ebulliently conveys the lively action here. A good choice for the preschool group. (Picture book. 2-6) Read full book review >