Books by Steve Johnson

WITH MY HANDS by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater
Released: March 27, 2018

"Poetry sparks an irresistible, primal urge to twist, cut, paint, draw, glue, carve, whittle, daub, tie, hammer, to simply make. (Picture book/poetry. 4-10)"
This trove of construction projects, relayed through a series of poems, rouses readers to roll up their sleeves and make something with their own hands—a painting, a birdhouse, a knot, a piñata, a soap-bar sculpture, a batch of cookies, a painting, or even a shadow-puppet show. Read full book review >
SOFIA'S STOOP STORY by Maria LaPlaca Bohrer
Released: Feb. 10, 2014

"Though a little heavy on the ethnic flavoring, the memories are as rich and savory as Nana's homemade sauce. (afterword) (Picture book. 6-9)"
A richly sentimental picture of a Sunday gathering from the author's youth. Read full book review >
Released: May 28, 2013

"Youngsters are sure to carry these images into their dreams. (Picture book. 3-6)"
Rhythmic lines will lull youngsters who are fully immersed in fairy-tale lore into a dreamy state. Read full book review >
A SPECIAL GIFT FOR GRAMMY by Jean Craighead George
Released: May 1, 2013

"Unexpected gifts for both Grammy and Hunter are the results from George's satisfying ending; the book is ideal for prompting discussions about ripple effects and the power of imagination. (Picture book. 5-8)"
A bond built on love, understanding and trust between a grandmother and her grandson proves pleasantly surprising for all involved. Read full book review >
Released: Dec. 11, 2012

"An average version of an extraordinary tale. (author's note) (Picture book/religion. 5-8)"
Mora retells the story of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Read full book review >
IT'S MILKING TIME by Phyllis Alsdurf
Released: April 24, 2012

"It's a lovely, poetic picture. (Picture book. 4-7)"
On a Midwestern dairy farm, a young girl helps her father with the daily milking chores, leading their Holsteins to the barn, feeding the calves, shoveling manure and washing up. Read full book review >
GOYANGI MEANS CAT by Christine McDonnell
Released: May 12, 2011

"A sensitive portrayal of international adoption, authentically and realistically done. (Picture book. 4-7)"
This beautifully illustrated, gentle adoption story stands out from most other treatments of the topic by honestly and reassuringly addressing the loss—of a birth family, a birth culture—inherent in adoption as well as the joy a new family experiences. Read full book review >
SUNDAY IS FOR GOD by Michael McGowan
Released: Jan. 26, 2010

"Simple and joyous. (Picture book. 4-8)"
"Weekdays are for school. Saturday's for having fun. Read full book review >
THE KING’S TASTER by Kenneth Oppel
Released: June 1, 2009

"Workmanlike collages by the accomplished Fancher and Johnson combine textiles, scrawled recipes and painterly elements in a muted, Old World palette that matches the ambitious plotting. (Picture book. 4-6)"
Narrated by a bespectacled beagle, Oppel's pedantic offering mixes a "be your authentic self" vibe with an admonishment not to spoil your appetite with sweets. Read full book review >
WHAT A GOOD BIG BROTHER! by Diane Wright Landolf
Released: Jan. 27, 2009

"A pleasing model for any new older sibling, jealous or not. (Picture book. 3-6)"
There are plenty of books for newly crowned big brothers and sisters out there, but most assume an underlying jealousy at their heart. Read full book review >
ANYTIME, ANYWHERE by Marcus Hummon
Released: Jan. 6, 2009

"Johnson and Fancher's appealing collage illustrations use patterned fabrics and cloth to create the squares of the boy's quilt, with a black-and-white checkerboard border extending from the quilt and wrapping cozily around the edge of each spread. (Picture book/religion. 4-7)"
Isaac and his father enjoy their nightly ritual of two stories read out loud before father listens to son's bedtime prayer. Read full book review >
AMAZING PEACE by Maya Angelou
Released: Sept. 23, 2008

"Into the great religions of the world' is at best tone-deaf and at worst frankly assimilationist. (Picture book/poetry. 6 & up)"
Angelou's poem considers peace as a joyous concept that rises up during the Christmas season, drawing in and including those of all faiths, sweeping everyone along with its power. Read full book review >
BUGTOWN BOOGIE by Warren Hanson
Released: June 1, 2008

"Still, Hanson's cheerful cadences and imaginatively embellished refrains carry the day, and Fancher's typography is handsome and effective. (Picture book. 4-8)"
A boy walking home at dusk narrates his fantastic woodland discovery: a diminutive but raucous party in a tree trunk. Read full book review >
THE UGLY DUCKLING by Stephen Mitchell
Released: Jan. 1, 2008

"Simply exquisite. (Picture book/fairy tale. 5-9)"
An absolutely drop-dead gorgeous edition of the beloved Andersen tale. Read full book review >
THE CHEESE by Margie Palatini
Released: May 1, 2007

Asking a question that has no doubt troubled millions of thinking children down through the years—just why should the cheese stand alone?—a rat grabs a napkin and sets off for the big chunk of cheddar that's fenced off down in the dell. Read full book review >
Released: Feb. 1, 2007

"Sheer delight. (Picture book. 5-10)"
Back in 1888, Mighty Casey struck out and left Mudville joyless. Read full book review >
STAR CLIMBING by Lou Fancher
Released: Feb. 1, 2006

"Excellent figure drawing and a final spread with brief constellation history round out this peaceful, vivid visual treat that will beckon readers into starry dreams. (Picture book. 2-5)"
Lush, rich illustrations highlight a fanciful nighttime adventure. Read full book review >
Released: June 1, 2005

"Enjoy the art, but get out a copy of Mysterious Thelonious or Charlie Parker Played Bebop for the real deal. (Picture book. 3-8)"
What is it about jazz and children's books? Read full book review >
THE DANCING TIGER by Malachy Doyle
Released: May 1, 2005

"Magical. (Picture book. 3-8)"
This kind of alchemy is all too rare, where the spaces between the words hold layers of meaning, and the images expand, expound and explode the text in lovely ways. Read full book review >
Released: Jan. 13, 2004

"Some of these original images are absolutely haunting; the magic of his name will make this a huge hit, but it's the lively writing that puts the hat on the cat. (bibliography, citations, Web sites) (Picture book/biography. 7-11)"
"Once upon a time, there lived a boy who feasted on books and was wild about animals." Read full book review >
YOU’RE A BEAR by Mavis Jukes
Released: Sept. 9, 2003

"A natural for bedtime sharing, with a rhythmic, partly rhymed text, cozily soft-lined illustrations with plush-like painted surfaces, and a subtly presented backstory. (Picture book. 5-7)"
A young child puts on a parent-sized hooded coat and presto—she's a grizzly bear, squeezing between living room "boulders," rambling through a "midnight breeze" from the refrigerator ("You're a bold bear / with a nose as cold as cheese . . . Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 1, 2002

"Why not just wait? (Picture book. 3-5)"
In his note to the reader, Fancher (The Range Eternal, p. 1222, etc.) writes, "I've shortened the text to allow more room for the artwork," as an explanation for this abbreviated version of the beloved classic. Read full book review >
THE RANGE ETERNAL by Louise Erdrich
Released: Sept. 1, 2002

"The metaphor may have more meaning for adults, but children too will be captivated by the lyrical art and prose. (Picture book. 7-9)"
Erdrich (Birchbark House, 1999, etc.) draws multiple meanings from the title in a poetic reminiscence founded on childhood memories. Read full book review >
NEW YORK’S BRAVEST by Mary Pope Osborne
Released: Aug. 13, 2002

"Not merely a title about one day of terror, Osborne's brief but well-fashioned text stirs the spirit to celebrate a quiet and caring bravery. (historical note) (Picture book. 5-8)"
In response to September 11th, Osborne returned to her story of the legendary 19th-century New York City volunteer firefighter Mose Humphreys (American Tall Tales, 1991) and refashioned it into a stirring picture-book tribute to the 343 firefighters who died on that terrible day. Read full book review >
Released: Aug. 1, 2001

"While this is not a radical re-envisioning, the dusty tale has been given a fresh, elegant, new dress. (Picture book/folktale. 6-8)"
Wolkstein (Glass Mountain, 1999, etc.) elaborates on Elphinstone Dayrell's terse rendition of the West African "Why the Sun and Moon Live in the Sky," by giving Moon a larger, more active part. Read full book review >
ROBIN’S ROOM by Margaret Wise Brown
Released: May 1, 2001

"Filled with incredible options, this can't help but inspire young decorators who've outgrown the 'great green room.' (Picture book. 4-8)"
A timeless tale of creativity unfurled. Read full book review >
SILVER SEEDS by Paul Paolilli
Released: March 1, 2001

"Pleasant enough. (Picture book/poetry. 4-8)"
It's hard not to like a book so deeply thought out in concept. Read full book review >
HORSEFLY by Alice Hoffman
Released: Aug. 1, 2000

"Bug can fly, well, can't a pony be a baby horse? (Picture book. 5-9)"
In Hoffman's adult work, the intersection of fantasy and realism is sustained and the suspension of disbelief can be close to absolute (The River King, p. 585, etc.). Read full book review >
COPPÉLIA by Margot *Fonteyn
Released: Oct. 1, 1998

"The textured paintings—oil painting lavished across nubby tweeds, lace, brocades, and other fabric—highlight the events of this unforgettable story, sure to send balletomanes off in search of the nearest production of the ballet. (Picture book. 6-10)"
The timeless tale of romance, suspicion, magic, and revenge is freshly retold, focusing on the feelings and actions of the characters: Dr. CoppÇlius as he comes to terms with his artistic gifts and broken dreams; Swanilda as she mischievously attempts to find the "daughter" of Dr. CoppÇlius; and Franz as he falls foolishly in love with a doll, but repents and wins Swanilda. Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 1, 1997

"Rather than attempting to jolly young readers through a common childhood experience, the story explores the emotional landscape with restraint and respect. (Picture book. 4-7)"
Cadnum (Edge, p. 797, etc.), known for his complex and challenging novels, proves equally adept at picture-book length in this quietly ruminative story about moving. Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 1, 1996

"Those who can set aside preconceived expectations—there is no butter-side-up Seuss here—will find that some of the spreads gracefully elevate poetry that often has feet but no wings. (Picture book. 3-8)"
Pairing emotions with colors is nothing new to poetry (e.g., Mary O'Neill's Hailstones and Halibut Bones), but pairing impressionistic full-color paintings to the text of Dr. Seuss is a first. Read full book review >
CAT, YOU BETTER COME HOME by Garrison Keillor
Released: May 1, 1995

"A must for all who read to their cats — a blithe and blissful must for all. (Picture book. 6-9)"
A characteristically wry morality tale in fur (or, more accurately, furs) from this country's best known storyteller, adapted from a track on his "Song of the Cat" recording (1991) and set to highly comical paintings by the illustrators of Jon Scieszka's Frog Prince, Continued (1991). Read full book review >
PEACH AND BLUE by Sarah S. Kilborne
Released: Oct. 3, 1994

"Unlikely pairings, but here they work just fine. (Fiction/Picture book. 3-7)"
Can a parochial toad find his everlasting in a peach bitten by wanderlust? Read full book review >
THE FIRST NIGHT by B.G. Hennessy
Released: Oct. 1, 1993

"John 1:14). (Picture book. 2-7)"
Creating illustrations with paintings on butternut wood, its delicate grain providing texture and its artfully roughened edges a weathered, rustic look, the artists use jewel-bright blues and rich earth tones to depict the shepherds following the star and the baby they find in the stable. Read full book review >
UP NORTH AT THE CABIN by Marsha Wilson Chall
Released: May 15, 1992

"Without the compelling drama of McCloskey's Time of Wonder, but—as a vibrant, affectionate tribute to another region—a worthy of standing on the same shelf. (Picture book. 4-9)"
Happy summer days in Minnesota's north woods are evoked in a generously large book with full-bleed paintings whose lush colors are echoed in the ground of the opposing text to make harmonious double spreads. Read full book review >
Released: May 1, 1991

"It's an entertaining effort— just not up to that superlative first book. (Picture book. 5+)"
The co-author (with A. Wolf) of The True Story of the Three Little Pigs (1989) assays another humorous embroidery of a traditional tale with somewhat less notable success. Read full book review >