Books by Melissa Iwai

Released: Oct. 9, 2018

"A must-read story of a lesser-known World War II event and its aftermath. (Informational picture book. 6-9)"
The true story of the Japanese pilot who bombed the continental United States during World War II. Read full book review >
SO SMALL! YOSEMITE by Melissa  Iwai
Released: Aug. 7, 2018

"This introduction to Yosemite may work well in conjunction with a visit, but as a book to learn about what is small, it misses the mark. (Board book. 1-3)"
A bear and a chickaree enjoy small treasures in Yosemite National Park. Read full book review >
PIZZA DAY by Melissa  Iwai
Released: Oct. 31, 2017

"Yummy! (Picture book. 4-7)"
In a summertime parallel to Iwai's warmhearted Soup Day (2010), while mother is at work, a father and child spend the day making pizza using homegrown vegetables and homemade dough. Read full book review >
MY SNOW GLOBE by Megan E. Bryant
Released: Sept. 27, 2016

"The text's repeated invitation to shake this fake snow globe will frustrate 21st-century children, who expect more from interactive books. (Board book. 2-4)"
This board book offers sturdy pages that can be handled more roughly than the breakable knickknack it tries to emulate. Read full book review >
Released: March 22, 2016

"Accessible for all, from the happy shopper to the tool-obsessed. (Picture book. 3-7)"
Dad, daughter, and son head to the hardware store to find tools for home repair. Read full book review >
TRUCK STOP by Anne Rockwell
Released: May 16, 2013

"For truck lovers everywhere. (Picture book. 2-6)"
A day in the life of a truck stop as told by its youngest worker, whose love for the place is very clear. Read full book review >
Released: Aug. 7, 2012

"Even though Little Monster eventually quiets down for a cozy night's sleep, this interpretation isn't the sweetest version in town. (Picture book. 3-5)"
This husband-and-wife team tries their hand at a ghoulish version of a popular lullaby. Read full book review >
Released: April 23, 2011

Despite multiple updates, this lightly enhanced version of an epic domestic Quest (print edition: 2005) still needs work. Read full book review >
SOUP DAY by Melissa  Iwai
Released: Sept. 28, 2010

Iwai's writing debut beautifully depicts the loving relationship between a mother and daughter as they go about a winter ritual—making soup. The two brave the snow to buy vegetables at the market, then it's back home to chop them all up, Mommy's hand helping her child's to chop the softest of the vegetables. Step-by-step the two mix the ingredients together. While it cooks, they fill the time by playing. Mommy adds the spices, and the daughter gets to choose the pasta shape for the soup. The two clean up while it cooks. Finally, Daddy is home and it is time to eat the soup, as much a product of the love that went into it as the vegetables. While the author slips colors, numbers and shapes into the text, the real draws are the touching portrayal of a mom and her daughter and the gorgeous artwork. Acrylics and collage were combined digitally to make the illustrations, which are filled with colors and practically palpable textures. Pair this with Ehlert's Growing Vegetable Soup. Ordinariness made extraordinary. (Picture book. 2-5)Read full book review >
BEFORE WE EAT by Jacqueline Jules
Released: March 1, 2010

A Jewish family sits down to eat. "Bread and butter on my plate. / I'm so hungry, I can't wait. // But before I take a bite, / I say some words / that feel just right." The unidentified narrator (a yarmulke-topped little boy or a curly-headed little girl, both early-elementary age in Iwai's illustrations) briefly describes the hamotzi blessing, thanking God for "[g]ood food, a home, a family." The full blessing appears on the last page in both transliterated Hebrew and a loosely translated English. This well-meaning book falls short. The two kids are too old for babies—presumably this format's target audience—to identify with. Children in observant families will have heard hamotzi from their earliest days; an explanation is better suited to preschool children, who are full of whys, than babies and toddlers, but this vehicle is too young for them. (Board book. 2-4)Read full book review >
CORN APLENTY by Dana Meachen Rau
Released: May 26, 2009

This Step 1 entry into the Step into Reading series gives teachers the opportunity to branch out from apples and pumpkins in their farm units. Readers accompany a pair of blond siblings as they watch the changes that occur on a local corn farm. They first drive by the farm in late winter when the trees are bare and the farmer is plowing the field. As the leaves appear they ride by on bikes and watch the planting of the corn. And so the seasons go, until it is time to walk to the farm stand and help the farmer sell the corn. In keeping with the level of the text, the sentences are short, with simple vocabulary that concentrates on verbs, nouns and adjectives and allows the illustrations to provide the context clues needed by beginning readers. Iwai's large, richly colored illustrations and a generous font make this a good choice for sharing with groups. A nice addition to school libraries looking to expand on the farm topic. (Early reader. 4-6)Read full book review >
WAKE UP ENGINES by Denise Dowling Mortensen
Released: July 16, 2007

After having glided into slumber to the soothing cadence of Good Night Engines (2003), it's time to get young motors humming and rumbling in its companion story. It's a brand new day so, "Fasten seatbelt, drive away." The acrylic paintings portray scenes of a little boy moving through his morning with a toy vehicle always at hand, while images of the world awakening appear on alternating pages. The youngster pushes his cars along a diminutive highway, while outside cars and trucks maneuver through traffic to the tune of "Honk! Honk! And Brmm! Brmm!" He's not old enough to hop the school bus that stops outside his window, but he's imaginative enough to envision helicopters dipping through tall buildings and jets zooming to lift-off. Iwai again delivers colorful visions of a boy's view amid a world crammed with vehicles. Brimming with tantalizing motor sounds and with just the right amount of rhyming text, this will get young ones' mornings off to a zippy start. (Picture book. 2-5)Read full book review >
GREEN AS A BEAN by Karla Kuskin
Released: Feb. 1, 2007

Kuskin offers a charming set of metaphorical musings connecting various qualities or traits with related objects or images in this imaginative display of wordplay. Her poetic text, previously published in 1960 with a different title and illustrations, is well-complemented in this version by glowing, double-page spreads featuring a wide-eyed little boy in round glasses. Each stanza follows the pattern of offering a hypothetical condition (being fierce, for example) and then asking the little boy what he (and the reader) would choose to be as a result of that attribute (a tiger or a dragon). The brief, fanciful poem explores several colors and other qualities, such as being bright or soft or loud, amplified by Iwai's striking paintings in glowing jewel tones. Her illustrations show dragons in the clouds, dancing mice, roaring tigers and a final delicious view of the little boy reading the very same story, with his own image as the illustration. Preschoolers will enjoy this as a read-aloud, but it will also be used by teachers in the elementary grades for writing lessons on metaphor and imagery. (Picture book/poetry. 3-8)Read full book review >
TOOLBOX TWINS by Lola M. Schaefer
Released: Sept. 1, 2006

When it comes to growing up, emulation is often the name of the game, and Vincent is no exception. "Dad has a toolbox. Vincent has one, too." While mom is busy with the new baby, father and son set about doing many varied projects around the house. As father and son work in tandem, the text highlights in bright colors the names of the tools while explaining what they do and how they are applied. Levels and awls measure and mark for frames and shelves, saws and shears prune and snip the limbs of trees and vines, and screws and nuts twist and turn to repair doors. Dad uses the real tools while Vincent does his small part with the bright toy versions. The illustrations offer a softened realism in the depiction of colorful familial ambiance and small details such as the red patterned carpet, small black dog, the plant on the windowsill or the backyard barbecue. If one isn't bothered by the family's very gender-specific duties, this is a cozy lap read that also serves as splendid learning tool. (Picture book. 3-5)Read full book review >
GOOD NIGHT ENGINES by Denise Dowling Mortensen
Released: Oct. 20, 2003

This little charmer is clearly intended for the vehicle-obsessed toddler. As a young boy plays with his cars, trucks, planes, and trains, the bedtime theme emerges with: "Sunset glowing in the west. / Engine slowing, / wheels at rest." In savory, rich colors, the most striking of which are the deep plums and cobalt blues, Iwai's illustrations are meticulous. The settings alternate from realistic, life scenes of, say, a plane landing on a runway (perhaps the boy's imaginative vision) with that of the boy holding the toy plane aloft. The little tyke's bedroom is a pleasant jumble of toys that make up the backdrop of his play with blocks, stuffed animals, jacks, and all manner of conveyance. Mortensen has written just enough text to engage the sleepy child while the soothing cadence will help ease the youngster into a contented slumber. (Picture book. 2-5)Read full book review >
Released: May 1, 2003

Delivered in verse, this is a heavy-machinery-lover's ABC. The consecutive letters of the alphabet are written into the rhyming text and brightly highlighted in large case. "Do you see the Asphalt for paving the road, or the big shiny Bulldozer pushing a load?" So begins the work on the construction project. Throughout the seasons of a year, children with friends, family, and pets watch the workers as they proceed through the complex process of building. Newcomer Sobel has missed none of the details a young aficionado would revel in, from huge loaders to nails to pipes. The construction workers are multi-ethnic as well as male and female. Finally, opening day arrives and those who have waited patiently behind the safety fences can at last enjoy the fun final product, an amusement park. Iwai's two-page spreads reveal her talent for painting people as well as details of vehicles and with creamy oils she also subtly depicts the changing seasons. From Asphalt to Zoom, this first-rate read-aloud will delight its audience. (Picture book. 3-6)Read full book review >
Released: April 21, 2003

Lane's debut offers an inventive story of one child's attempts to wake her parents from their sleep so she can put in an order for breakfast. The two-headed giant is fast asleep inside the cave on top of Snuggle Mountain and it's up to Emma to scale the peak and save the giant from the Sleeping Spell. If she can climb all the way to the top of the rumbling mountain, she plans to ask the giant to make some pancakes for her. It's not going to be an easy task. Obstacles include a dog and cat that have also fallen under the spell and the tendency for the mountain to occasionally have wild tremors, making climbing treacherous. Finally, Emma reaches the summit and climbs into the cave, trying hard to wake the giant. She realizes that what the giant really needs is sunlight and some noise. She supplies both and soon is leading the morning parade down to the kitchen for breakfast. Unfortunately for her parents, now that she knows she can climb the mountain, she thinks she might have pancakes for breakfast more often. Acrylic-and-pencil illustrations successfully turn the soft quilt into a craggy mountain and swirling blankets into a rushing stream. Muted colors and soft shading give this tribute to one child's imagination a comforting twist. (Picture book. 3-5)Read full book review >
THE BEEMAN by Laurie Krebs
Released: Sept. 1, 2002

A beekeeping grandpa stars in debut author Krebs's witty ditty modeled after The House that Jack Built. "Here is his jacket, / with zippered up hood / that covers his face / just the way that it should / when he visits his hives as / the Beeman." Told from the granddaughter's perspective, rhyming text introduces beekeeping equipment, processes, and the roles of each bee in the hive (including queen bee, drones, workers, and house bees). Iwai's (Hannah's Christmas, 2001, etc.) full-bleed acrylic-on-board illustrations picture adult and child in the backyard bee farm; text and vignettes—of a jacket, leather gloves, and beehive—appear in quarter-spread panels. Unfortunately, Iwai's static figures compromise the vitality of her refreshing palette. In one spread, for example, adult and child—both in bee suits—appear against a backdrop of green trees, bushes, and a sun-dappled lawn; stiffly lifting the beehive, the grandfather looks as if he's about to fall backward. Nevertheless, Iwai does a good job representing the bees; a dramatic close-up depicts "house bees" fanning the nectar in an intricate geometric honeycomb. Teachers wishing to supplement studies of community will find Krebs's debut useful for its introduction to the social structure of bee-dom; librarians will likely notice a buzz for the book around Grandparent's Day too. (Picture book. 4-8)Read full book review >
HANNA’S CHRISTMAS by Melissa Peterson
Released: Oct. 1, 2001

Hanna's family has to move to America from Sweden right before Christmas, and Hanna is terribly homesick, at least until a surprise gift from her Grandmother shows up in a box full of Christmas goodies. Hanna is so disappointed that they might not even have time for Christmas this year with all of the unpacking that needs to be done. Then she sees something rustling in the straw in her Grandmother's gift box. To her surprise, out pops a tiny little man, a tomten. Hanna soon learns how much trouble an unhappy tomten can cause as he spends all of his time getting into mischief for which Hanna is blamed. As Hanna helps her new magical companion overcome his homesickness, she finds her own draining away. Together they work to bring a little bit of Swedish Christmas to their new home in America. Bright, but simple illustrations add appeal to this story. An entertaining Christmas tale meant to tie in to a line of mail-order clothing, but not much more. (Picture book. 4-7)Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 1, 2001

This Chanukah offering from Rosen (Elijah's Angel, 1992, etc.) attempts to find metaphoric comparison for the lights of the Chanukah menorah. But while Angel soars, Lights falls flat. The metaphors are forced, the language stilted, and Iwai's (Night Shift Daddy, 2000, etc.) illustrations, while colorful and appealing, are flawed. On the first night of Chanukah the moon is like a flame. On the second night two headlights from grandpa's car resemble the Chanukah lights, defying the laws of parallel parking as well as the laws of physics by shining directly into the living room of the family's brownstone walk-up. On the third night, cousins come to visit and the young narrator switches on the lamps outside, "and suddenly there are three more lights, like in our menorah!" On the fifth night, five silver dollars shine like lights. By the seventh night, the family finds a Chanukah analogy in the seven bulbs burning in the windows of a Christian friend. Dad declares that "Chanukah is also about the joy of different religions sharing a street." So far, the story has revealed little about the meaning of Chanukah. Iwai's illustration for this spread shows a suburban neighborhood, despite already having depicted the family's street in the heart of a neighborhood that looks a lot like Brooklyn. A note following the text explains the origins of the holiday. Disappointing. (Picture book. 3-5)Read full book review >
NIGHT SHIFT DADDY by Eileen Spinelli
Released: April 1, 2000

In lyrical rhyming verse, Spinelli (When Mama Comes Home, 1998) has captured the affectionate ritual of a father and young daughter as they prepare for bedtime. In this tender and moving picture book, Daddy reads a good-night story to his daughter as they cuddle together in the rocking chair. Later, Daddy tucks in his sleepy child with kisses on the nose, asking, "How cozy are those toes?" As Daddy leaves for his nightshift job, he is unaware that his daughter is seeing him safely off from her darkened bedroom window. She drifts into slumber happily imagining her father at work. As the sun rises and Daddy returns home, we see a charming reversal of last night's routine as the little girl tucks her father under the covers and fluffs his pillow before going out to play. In this cozy lap-read each full-page illustration is exquisitely rendered in deep, rich tones sure to invoke sweet dreams. (Picture book. 4-7)Read full book review >