Books by Rita Gray

Released: Sept. 6, 2016

"A hushed, lyrical glimpse into the world of dreamers. (Picture book. 4-7)"
The dreams of woodland creatures—and one Little Dreamer's—take the spotlight in this whimsical exploration of nighttime fantasies. Read full book review >
Released: March 3, 2015

"Although it has some textual flaws, this quiet, introspective work beckons readers to keenly observe. (fact page, website) (Informational picture book. 4-8)"
Verse alternates with facts about pollinators, depicted with their preferred flowering plants. Read full book review >
Released: March 18, 2014

"As welcome as the robin in springtime. (Informational picture book. 4-7)"
Two children wander through the countryside listening to calls of common birds and wonder why the nesting robin alone does not make a sound. Read full book review >
ONE BIG RAIN by Rita Gray
Released: July 1, 2010

The images in this compact collection are appropriately misty—colors and shapes seen through rain. The brief poems cover many styles, including a number of translated haiku, but they are all evocative and easily grasped. Arranged by season, they follow the rain through autumn, winter, spring and summer. The compiler's own poem, "Black Cat"—"Black cat / at a white / window-pane / watches a rose / run red / in the rain"—sits on a stark white page, the black cat curling in the lower-right corner, the window with rose in the upper left. The swirls, swoops and geometric shapes are all softened by rain. Other poets included run from Robert Frost to Issa, Hilda Conkling to Lilian Moore, R. Olivares Figueroa (translated from Spanish) to Sigbjørn Obstfelder (translated from Norwegian). Frogs and watermelons, children and shadows, owls and plum blossoms appear in these pages. Soft and refreshing. (introduction, about haiku translations) (Poetry. 5-9)Read full book review >
Released: March 1, 2008

In a farm setting, a human mother and assorted animal moms leave their offspring to take care of business: do farm chores (human), stalk a rat (cat), get shod (horse) and so forth. Each promises to return when her task is done. The stiff and jerky rhymes read awkwardly, working against the soothing message of reassurance. The illustrations of human beings—especially the mother, child and caregiver who anchor the story—are static, almost ominously devoid of warmth. They make no eye contact, staring past one another with bland smiles, a kind of rural Stepford family. This lack of emotional connection is puzzling given the subject matter: allaying the anxieties of small children when Mommy disappears from view. The portrayal of daily farm life, the book's subtext, is also curiously flat, but the attractive animal illustrations provide some of the appeal and charm missing from their human counterparts. (Picture book. 2-5)Read full book review >
EASY STREET by Rita Gray
by Rita Gray, illustrated by Mary Bono
Released: June 1, 2006

For those who ever thought making a road was a simple process, Gray will show you to think again; easy street is all but easy to fashion. Bono's road crew—three-dimensional, clay-like characters, all button-nosed and busyness—demonstrate the steps necessary to lay an asphalt roadway. Road-building is an act of many parts, but as Gray tells it in his minimal rhyme, it is also a straightforward affair: one layer goes upon another, dirt then gravel then "Asphalt, asphalt, cooked with heat. / Pouring out a slice of street. / Sticky street, soft to spread. / Squeeze it out like jam on bread." Always, there is the road maker's refrain: "Roll it, roll it, wheels so fat. / Roll it down to make it flat." Complementing the read-aloud bounce of the text is an afterword that explains the importance of compaction, the composition of aggregate and the origin of the word "asphalt." And who won't be intrigued by the fact that mixed in with all the tar is a good measure of dinosaur bones? (Picture book. 2-5)Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 1, 2005

The whistling wind tempts Little Horse to venture from his cozy barn to find out what's afoot in the big wide world. With his parents' permission, the warm brown pony with a white heart on his forehead trots out to see who might be in the barnyard and beyond—and the farther he goes, the braver he gets. When the scent of the salty sea reaches him, he trots off with wild, joyful abandon, enjoying the crashing surf, the seals and the seabirds: "Romping, stomping, pawing the ground, / Little Horse is horsing around!" His innocent awe and the pleasure he takes in his burgeoning independence are touching, and his return to the barn with mother and father racing alongside him is a comforting conclusion. While the rhythm of the rhyming narrative is a bit strained at times, Wolff's full-bleed, sun-kissed gouache paintings are beautifully shadowed and textured, full of splashes, breezes and affection. Little horse lovers will be besotted. (Picture book. 2-7)Read full book review >
NONNA’S PORCH by Rita Gray
Released: Oct. 1, 2004

A wordless introductory spread provides a wide view of Nonna's house in the countryside: a cheery yellow home with a periwinkle-blue roof and a big, wide porch. Nonna is always knitting on that porch in her rocking chair, and she is the heart of this peaceful, thoughtful story, told from the point of view of her grandson. Each spread includes a patterned text, beginning with "Nonna's porch is very still," followed by one sound that can be heard, including the noises of neighboring creatures and the games played by the visiting grandchildren. The final sounds are Nonna's heart beating and her rocking chair creaking as she rocks her grandson to sleep under the blanket she's been knitting throughout the story. Widener's paintings show a happy Hispanic family and a realistically portrayed grandmother who isn't elderly, just middle-aged. Gray's poetic first effort is as satisfying as an ice-cold glass of lemonade and as comforting as a hug from Grandma. (Picture book. 3-7)Read full book review >