Books by Jill McElmurry

Released: Jan. 2, 2018

"Uncomplicated fun that sets readers up for the earlier, more-complicated books to come. (Board book. 1-4)"
Little Blue Truck and his pal Toad meet friends old and new on a springtime drive through the country. Read full book review >
Released: July 5, 2016

"Beloved Little Blue takes a bit of the mystery—and fear—out of Halloween costumes. (Board book. 2-4)"
A lift-the-flap book gives the littlest trick-or-treaters some practice identifying partygoers under their costumes. Read full book review >
SHARING THE BREAD by Pat Zietlow Miller
Released: Aug. 25, 2015

"It may be a romantic view, but it is nevertheless a very appealing one. (Picture book. 4-7)"
A gentle rhyme scheme and a palette that brings to mind folk art shape a nostalgic and rather sentimental view of the holiday. Read full book review >
Released: Jan. 6, 2015

"This excellent take on modern, blended families melds a believable, resonant story arc and winsome, child-appealing illustrations. (Picture book. 4-8)"
Coyote pup Cardell is perfectly happy with his parents. He lives in a cozy adobe cottage with his artist mom and visits his dad across the desert, sharing him with his stepmother and stepbrother. Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 23, 2014

"Little Blue's fans will enjoy the animal sounds and counting opportunities, but it's the sparkling lights on the truck's own tree that will put a twinkle in a toddler's eyes. (Picture book. 2-5)"
The sturdy Little Blue Truck is back for his third adventure, this time delivering Christmas trees to his band of animal pals. Read full book review >
THE TREE LADY by H. Joseph Hopkins
Released: Sept. 17, 2013

"An appealing treatment of an accomplished woman's life. (author's note) (Picture book/biography. 5-9)"
Hopkins respectfully profiles Kate Sessions, a pioneering horticulturalist who helped transform San Diego's City Park from a barren waste into today's lush, tree-filled Balboa Park. Read full book review >
MARIO MAKES A MOVE by Jill McElmurry
Released: May 8, 2012

"A charming story of friendship, dance moves, artistic fervor and squirrels. (And squirrel facts!) (Picture book. 4-8)"
Mario is a squirrel who loves his dance moves, from the "Bowling Ball" to "Twirly Ballet Arms," and his relatives assure him he is amazing. Read full book review >
PIRATE PRINCESS by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen
Released: May 1, 2012

"A winning combination of smart and silly, this yarn will make a welcome addition to princess and pirate storytimes, as well as a good choice for one-on-one sharing. (Picture book. 4-8)"
In upbeat, rhyming verse, Bardhan-Quallen presents the rollicking adventures of a princess-turned-pirate. Read full book review >
WHO STOLE MONA LISA? by Ruthie Knapp
Released: Sept. 1, 2010

This inventive book's $20,000 Pyramid category would be "What Mona Lisa Might Say." Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa closely observes the people who come to see her in the Louvre: "People with up hair. People with down hair." She hears the guide ask, "Is it a growing smile or a knowing smile? A shy smile or a sly smile?" and can even smell garlic on museum-goers' breath. One fateful night in August 1911, she hears footsteps. Someone rips her framed self right off the wall. ("Ouch!") Her Italian thief adores her, but he stows her under his stove for safekeeping: "Now, instead of crowds, I saw cobwebs. / Instead of admirers, ants." The engaging, rhythmic-but-not-rhyming text fuses deliciously with McElmurry's marvelous artwork—its flat, decorative style, skewed head angles, strong lines and rich gouache colors echo both illuminated manuscripts and the Sienese school of painting. Mona Lisa's ever-changing expressions and comical details (such as a Maine fisherman with his lobster at the Louvre) are priceless. Ornamental borders and an occasional cartoon bubble contribute to the arresting design. A gem. (author's note) (Informational picture book. 5-8) Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 1, 2009

Little Blue is back, here the innocent instigator of a tremendous traffic jam (Little Blue Truck, 2008). While Little Blue is in awe over the size and speed of the city, the sight of such a country bumpkin is too much to bear for many of the self-absorbed city vehicles, who angrily tell Little Blue to "Shove on, Shorty." But in their rush to get somewhere, they forget an important detail that the little truck points out: "You might be fast / and I might be slow, / but one at a time / is the way to go." In the end, Little Blue saves the day for the mayor, untangles the traffic snafu and earns the city vehicles' respect. McElmurry's wonderfully retro gouache illustrations lend personality to each of the vehicles. Readers truly get a sense of movement—the back ends of the vehicles are a streaky blur, while their exhaust pipes spew smoke and the street sweeper fills the page with dust clouds. Still, the let's-all-get-in-line message may well pall with youngsters, if not their teachers. (Picture book. 3-7)Read full book review >
THE ONE AND ONLY MARIGOLD by Florence Parry Heide
Released: Jan. 13, 2009

Marigold loves her ratty old purple coat more than just about anything, so she even wears it in the shower. She refuses to replace it, pronouncing, "I'm a very loyal person" (though she's in fact a monkey). Her mother makes her go coat shopping anyway, and nothing is acceptable…until she finds a purple coat exactly like her old one. "Marigold's Purple Coat" is the first of four connected vignettes in this charming picture book whose snappy, funny stories of monkey-hippo friendship are as appealing as the folk art-style gouache illustrations and lively-but-clean design. Confident Marigold and the more thin-skinned Maxine are true childhood friends; that is to say, they deliberately bug each other, play tricks, fall out and eventually make up with no awkward explanations or hard feelings. McElmurry outdoes herself with gorgeous landscapes, and with Marigold's goofy hair and stubborn stances infuses even more humor into the already laugh-out-loud stories. (Picture book. 5-8)Read full book review >
LITTLE BLUE TRUCK by Alice Schertle
Released: May 1, 2008

Plucky animals rescue stuck truck. As the bright blue truck with headlights like eyes rattles down the country road, all the animals greet it. A big yellow dump truck comes zooming by; after passing Blue, Dump gets stuck in a patch of mud. Blue tries to help, but he gets stuck as well. Lickety split, the cow, the horse, the sheep, the chicken—all the farm animals—pitch in to free the two vehicles. They can't quite budge the trucks until the big green toad (pictured knee-deep in mud in a muscleman pose) joins the team. Out pop the trucks. Dump learns a valuable lesson—"a lot depends on a helping hand from a few good friends"—and Blue gives the animals a lift back to the farm. Schertle's rhythmic text—accented on the page by judiciously applied colored inks—fairly chants itself. McElmurry's vibrant illustrations, in gouache on watercolor paper, recall Cooney and Burton in palette, line and design. This crisp rendition of a familiar scenario is sure to become a storytime favorite. (Picture book. 3-6)Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 1, 2007

A single woman named Mary is lonely in her well-kept stone house, so she adopts a basset hound from the local pound with the assistance of Sam, the resident dog trainer. Her new pet, Blue the basset hound, howls for his missing pals, who escape from the pound and burst in to join him. The pack of pooches creates havoc in Mary's house, so she calls on kindly Sam to help her with training the whole bunch of dogs so they can stay. Romance and a wedding ensue, resulting in a happy, settled home for Mary and Sam and all the dogs. Swaim's rollicking text unfolds in rhyming couplets with some humorous wordplay and inserted sound effects of the basset hound's distinctive howls at the end of funny strings of descriptions of the dogs' behavior. The bouncy text is well complemented by McElmurry's cheerful gouache illustrations full of leaping dogs and muddy footprints tracked all over Mary's cozy house. Dog lovers will enjoy the antics of this happy bunch. (Picture book. 4-8)Read full book review >
I’M NOT A BABY by Jill McElmurry
Released: July 11, 2006

Semantics. Leo Leotardi may be the youngest in his family, but he is aging right before our eyes. He's obviously outgrown his be-ribboned bassinet—he wants to eat waffles, wear big-boy pants and go to school. Nobody listens; everyone refers to him, affectionately, as "the baby." When Leo insists, repeatedly, that he is "NOT a baby," his father describes him as a "persnickety . . . splendorous . . . impetuous . . . weisenheimer [sic]." At school, Leo recites Shakespeare soliloquies, while dressed in his ridiculous blue romper, bonnet and booties; delivers the high-school graduation address; and goes off to find work, marriage and a baby of his own. Repeated readings reveal the point: There's a difference between being "THE baby" and being "A baby." Incongruous pairings in the comic gouache illustrations (a wood-fired stove, candlestick-style telephone and gas-lit chandelier cohabit with a laptop computer, electric light bulb and crimson high-top sneakers) remind us that this is nothing new. (Picture book. 4-7)Read full book review >
OUR NEST by Reeve Lindbergh
Released: April 1, 2004

Luminous undertones in McElmurry's neatly brushed landscapes and cozy close-ups reflect and enhance the lyricism of Lindbergh's rhyme. Cataloguing nests, the poet begins with a reader or listener snuggled in bed and a dog nestled nearby, then moves ever outward, from a mama cat on a pile of clothes and a hen out in the barn, to the ocean nested upon our planet, which is in turn nesting in the universe, and back, step by step, to a heartfelt finish: "We're here in the nest of creation / With the earth and the stars up above. / And you're here, safe and warm, / In the nest of my arms, / When I wrap them around you with love." Bedtime reads lie thick upon the ground, but for its comforting message, flowing text, warm sentiment, and jewel-like art, this comes close to such standards as Margaret Wise Brown's Goodnight Moon or Kate Banks's And If the Moon Could Talk (1998). (Picture book. 5-8)Read full book review >
IT’S A MIRACLE! by Stephanie Spinner
Released: Oct. 1, 2003

Spinner's stories are of the inventive bedtime variety about family, as told by six-and-half-year-old Owen Block's grandmother. After each evening of Hanukkah festivities, Grandma tells Owen a story, like the one about the girl whose brother was supposed to be a rabbi, but who moved to Alaska to study wolves instead. Owen realizes the girl sounds a lot like Cousin Shira, who was the one in the family to become a rabbi. Each wacky story is about Owen's relatives—with the possible exception of the one about the aliens. And as Uncle Izzie, the class clown who grew up to be the comedian, says, "You never know, kid." McElmurry's light-hearted illustrations match the text's tone. So, for instance, the words say Grandma "kicked off her shoes" and the picture focuses on her cowboy boots. Delightfully funny and touching. (afterword, blessings, glossary) (Picture book. 4-8)Read full book review >
MESS PETS by Jill McElmurry
Released: Sept. 1, 2002

McElmurry (The Kettles Get New Clothes, p. 952, etc.) explores the fertile territory of the messes to be found in juvenile bedrooms, as well as the psychologically messy province of competitive siblings. Hannah and Hilary are identical red-headed twins who share a bedroom, feuding because Hannah is neat and organized and Hilary is hopelessly messy and downright dirty, with heaps of junk on her side of the room that include pizza crusts and dirty socks. The trash piles mysteriously produce two unusual pets, a dog-like imaginary creature named Mr. Peel for Hilary and an extra-long-tailed cat named Tip-Top for Hannah. In the strongest part of the story, the girls and their "mess pets" descend into the underworld that exists beneath messy rooms, with several humorous spreads showing map-like illustrations of fantastical formations such as Hairy Hairbrush Lane, Spilled Milk Lagoon, and Dust Bunny Mountain (complete with sneezing rabbits). When Hannah and Hilary hear their own arguments replayed by their bickering pets, they realize that compromise is in order, and a group rapprochement is achieved with a wallow in a huge banana split. The partially rhyming text is unevenly paced and the rapid transitions between the real world and the underworld are at first a little confusing, but the glories of this messy realm shouldn't be missed. Both kids and parents on opposite sides of the clean-your-room divide will enjoy the busy details of Mess World. (Picture book. 4-8)Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 1, 2002

The Kettles are surprised to find that their old clothing store has been replaced by Monsieur Pip's haute couture boutique. This family of dogs only wants some plain and functional clothing, but they soon find themselves dressed in a variety of colors and styles. The proprietor claims that his customers are always happy—guaranteed. Sporting paisley bellbottoms and gold chains, the Kettles decide that's too perky and too spry. Hip stripes are too forceful and strong. Bold checks are too cheery and too snappy. Nearing the end of his rope, Monsieur Pip dresses the Kettles in dots, but they are too playful and too fun. Only Baby Kettle is happy about the exciting new clothing, smiling through all the wardrobe changes. Finally the Kettles find some plain clothing that fits the bill and everyone is relieved until Baby begins to cry. Taking his cue, Monsieur Pip takes Baby back into the dressing room for one final change of clothes. To everyone's delight, she emerges in an exciting mix of paisley, stripes, checks, and dots, giving the littlest Kettle a look all her own. The colorful gouache illustrations are an amusing commentary on the wild world of high fashion, and young readers will delight in the whimsical details of the dog's shopping experience. The repetitive text makes this a perfect read-aloud selection. Fun? Mais oui! "G-U-A-R-A-N-T-E-E-D!" (Picture book. 3-6)Read full book review >
MAD ABOUT PLAID by Jill McElmurry
Released: April 30, 2000

Newcomer McElmurry offers a madcap romp with a plaid that spreads like the flu. Little Madison Pratt finds a purse in the park, a plaid purse with a sad blue inside: "Don't worry. I'll take care of you," says Madison. But as she steps along, the plaid on the purse starts to crawl up her arm and the next thing you know, Madison has a bad case of the plaids, from her allplaid clothes to the plaid blush on her cheek. She follows her doctor's orders to rest easy, but a small plaid burp escapes her lips (product of the non-plaid cola she is sipping) and taints the rest of the town plaid, all plaid. In a brainstorm, Madison returns to the park where she dropped the purse and turns it inside out, only to release a plague of melancholy blue over everything. Life returns to normal only after Madison sings an extra-silly round of her extra-silly song, which just goes to show that "as you probably already knew, with a silly grin on you can't stay blue." McElmurry has written the story in rhyme, but she keeps the wordplay on the ragged side, with broken syncopations, to keep both readers and listeners alert. The artwork is jazzy and two-dimensional, with, of course, the emphasis on color, as a book about plaid really ought to do. (Picture book. 5-7)Read full book review >