Books by Tony Johnston

TONY JOHNSTON's many acclaimed picture books include The Worm Family. Any Small Goodness: A Novel of the Barrio, her first novel for young readers, was voted Children's Book of the Year by the Southern California Booksellers Association. She lives in San


THE CAT WITH SEVEN NAMES by Tony Johnston
Released: Aug. 1, 2013

"Children will likely enjoy this visit to a newly united neighborhood, even if the catalyst for its creation is more device than distinct individual. (Picture book. 6-8)"
A friendly cat worms his way into the affections of a number of neighbors, gains new names (and enough extra meals to pack on a few pounds), and eventually brings together residents new and old. Read full book review >
LAUGH-OUT-LOUD BABY by Tony Johnston
Released: Sept. 4, 2012

"Enjoy it for the delicious, read-aloud text, but hide the illustrations. (Picture book. 3-8)"
Johnston captures the beauty of a baby's first laugh and a family's subsequent joy in this sweet celebration of one of life's loveliest milestones. Read full book review >
LEVI STRAUSS GETS A BRIGHT IDEA by Tony Johnston
ADVENTURE
Released: Sept. 12, 2011

"A "pure-dee" delight for storytime. (Picture book. 4-8)"
A tall-tale version of the invention of blue jeans by a New York peddler who came late to the California gold rush but saw a need and filled it. Read full book review >
MY ABUELITA by Tony Johnston
by Tony Johnston, illustrated by Yuyi Morales, photographed by Tim O’Meara
FAMILY AND GROWING UP
Released: Sept. 1, 2009

"Children and adults, especially those who love listening and telling stories, will be thrilled to discover Abuelita's enchanting profession. (Picture book. 3-7)"
A Mexican-flavored story of a small child who lives with a lovely and extravagant grandmother. Read full book review >
VOICE FROM AFAR by Tony Johnston
POETRY
Released: Dec. 1, 2008

"A moving invitation to hope. (Picture book/poetry. 10 & up)"
Twenty-six verse vignettes convey with urgency and emotion the harsh realities of a world strafed by war but yearning for peace. Read full book review >
BONE BY BONE BY BONE by Tony Johnston
FAMILY AND GROWING UP
Released: Aug. 1, 2007

"Even with scanty plot or narrative arc, this is a highly appealing and chilling read for history buffs and fans of historical fiction. (Historical fiction. 11-15)"
In 1951, 12-year-old David lives with his father and grandmother in the South. Read full book review >
ANGEL CITY by Tony Johnston
FAMILY AND GROWING UP
Released: June 1, 2006

"A quieter exploration of the toll inner-city violence takes on the innocent is hard to imagine, nor a lovelier. (author's note) (Picture book. 5-8)"
In a Los Angeles seemingly devoid of angels, one old man makes a step toward municipal redemption when he adopts a baby he finds abandoned in a dumpster. Read full book review >
STICKY PEOPLE by Tony Johnston
FICTION
Released: June 1, 2006

"Still, this is certain to find a willing audience among those children who just can't seem to stay clean. (Picture book. 3-6)"
Johnston's latest is an illustrated rhyme celebrating the sticky wonder that is childhood. Read full book review >
NOEL by Tony Johnston
POETRY
Released: Sept. 1, 2005

"His impressionistic paintings are a fine match for the poem that serves as the text: Both seem to say that the hours of Christmas Eve rush by quickly in a blur of sensations too intense to last. (artist's note) (Picture book. 5-8)"
Impressionistic watercolor illustrations filled with blowing snow and blue-gray skies set a wintry tone in this poetic exploration focusing on the sounds and sights of Christmas Eve, such as a church bell ringing from "an icicle-pointed steeple." Read full book review >
THE SPOON IN THE BATHROOM WALL by Tony Johnston
FAMILY AND GROWING UP
Released: May 1, 2005

"Only for the largest collections. (Fiction. 8-12)"
Martha lives in the boiler room of the Horace E. Bloggins School. Read full book review >
THE WHOLE GREEN WORLD by Tony Johnston
FICTION
Released: April 8, 2005

"A bouncy, lyrical alternative or companion for the likes of David Mallett's Inch By Inch: The Garden Song (1995), illus by Ora Eitan, or Frank Asch's Earth and I (1994). (Picture book. 5-7)"
Amid swirls of brightly colored birds, bugs, seeds, leaves, wild creatures, buildings and people, a child ties her shoes, then goes out to plant, nurture and spread a garden—all to the tune of Johnston's song-like verses: "I've got a little pair of shoes. / (How I love my little shoes!) / Got a little pair of shoes / to dance the whole green world." Read full book review >
CHICKEN IN THE KITCHEN by Tony Johnston
ANIMALS
Released: Feb. 1, 2005

"Peck, pick, and poke, this feather-brained tale needs a stronger perch to roost on. (Picture book. 4-7)"
Yes, "There's a chicken in the kitchen, / and she's pokin' like the dickens / at the oven and the bread box. / Just a peckin' and a pickin'." Read full book review >
THE WORM FAMILY by Tony Johnston
ANIMALS
Released: Oct. 1, 2004

"Steer young readers to such equally joyous, and better conceived, celebrations of diversity as Sheila Hamanaka's All the Colors of the Earth (1994) or Sam Swope's Araboolies of Liberty Street (1989). (Picture book. 7-9)"
A well-intentioned episode derailed by illustrations that are, to say the least, problematic. Read full book review >
THE HARMONICA by Tony Johnston
FICTION
Released: Feb. 1, 2004

"Visually effective and grim. (author's note) (Picture book. 8+)"
This dark piece is based on a Holocaust survivor's experience. Read full book review >
A KENYA CHRISTMAS by Tony Johnston
FICTION
Released: Oct. 15, 2003

"Includes a glossary of terms. (Picture book. 4-8)"
In this original tale set in Kenya, an old man named Juma recounts the story of a special Christmas when he was ten. Read full book review >
THE MUMMY’S MOTHER by Tony Johnston
FICTION
Released: Oct. 1, 2003

When grave robbers break into their shared tomb to carry away his mother's sarcophagus, it's young 4,010-year-old Ramose to the rescue in this decidedly offbeat tale. Read full book review >
ISABEL’S HOUSE OF BUTTERFLIES by Tony Johnston
ANIMALS
Released: Sept. 1, 2003

"Undeniably didactic, the story highlights the economic and cultural complexities of preserving endangered species, and provides a welcome complement to the many other books on monarch migration. (Picture book. 6-8)"
Eight-year-old Isabel, who lives in a small impoverished village in the mountains of Michoacán, Mexico, tells the story of the annual monarch butterfly migration to the magnificent oyamel tree beside her casita. Read full book review >
GO TRACK A YAK! by Tony Johnston
FAMILY AND GROWING UP
Released: July 1, 2003

"Janet Stevenson, 1988), and other tales of tricksters tricked will relish this new comeuppance. (Picture book. 7-9)"
A witch's trick backfires in this folkloric original episode. Read full book review >
THE ANCESTORS ARE SINGING by Tony Johnston
POETRY
Released: April 2, 2003

"A good addition where books about Mexico are needed. (Poetry. 8-12)"
Twenty-nine poems in free verse and haiku celebrate Mexico's dramatic history and continuing traditions. Read full book review >
ALIEN & POSSUM by Tony Johnston
ANIMALS
Released: May 1, 2002

"A likable duo and an enjoyable romp for beginning readers who will be looking for the next installment. (Easy reader. 6-8)"
Possum and Alien are good friends who first met in Alien and Possum: Friends No Matter What (2001). Read full book review >
ANY SMALL GOODNESS by Tony Johnston
FAMILY AND GROWING UP
Released: Sept. 1, 2001

"Maravilloso! (glossary, not seen) (Fiction. 9-13)"
Sweet as Mexican dulces, here's an episodic story about life in the Los Angeles barrio. Read full book review >
ALIEN AND POSSUM by Tony Johnston
ANIMALS
Released: Sept. 1, 2001

"Droll and expressive language helps to add a little humor to what might have been too much of a lesson about understanding differences, and readers will look forward to "hanging out" with the two in a sequel of the same name. (Easy reader. 6-8)"
Possum's open-minded attitude helps him to make an unusual new friend. Read full book review >
CAT, WHAT IS THAT? by Tony Johnston
ANIMALS
Released: Aug. 1, 2001

"Truly a celebration of the grace and complexity of the cat, each luminous painting will appeal to both children and adults. (Picture book. All ages)"
Fascination, admiration, respect, and love for the inscrutable cat are evident on every page of this beautifully designed tribute. Read full book review >
SUNSETS OF THE WEST by Tony Johnston
FICTION
Released: June 1, 2001

"A richly rewarding journey. (Picture book. 5-8)"
The travels of a family from Maine are chronicled in the sights, smells, and sounds of their wagon journey. Read full book review >
THAT SUMMER by Tony Johnston
FAMILY AND GROWING UP
Released: May 1, 2001

"A loving, poignant story that will join the ranks of a handful of others, which, like Joey's quilt with its last missing piece, help fill the gap for dealing realistically with its difficult subject. (Picture book. 5-9)"
"What do you do when you know you are leaving the world?" Read full book review >
DESERT SONG by Tony Johnston
ANIMALS
Released: Sept. 1, 2000

"Pictures and text are gentle and poetic, suggesting the mystery of the desert at night, where all is not as quiet as it might first appear. (Picture book. 4-8)"
When twilight comes to the Sonoran desert, bats fly from their cave "like dry leaves blowing, like shadows on the wing," searching for insects. Read full book review >
THE BARN OWLS by Tony Johnston
Released: Feb. 1, 2000

"A glimpse into the hidden campestral world of the elusive barn owl. (Picture book. 4-8)"
From Johnston (An Old Shell, 1999, etc.), poetic phrases that follow a ghostly barn owl through days and nights, suns and moons. Read full book review >
AN OLD SHELL by Tony Johnston
Released: Oct. 8, 1999

"This is a quiet, low-key celebration of a remote, endangered natural community. (Poetry. 8-12)"
Spun from a 1995 visit, these 34 short poems are largely meditations on the wildlife of the Gal†pagos Islands and their past: after a long voyage, a rice rat arrives on a tangle of floating vines, a tall flamingo "drinks from its/cool green reflection," a Sally Lightfoot crab comes "skibbling over the sand/in/delicate/dressage," and Darwin's ship, The Beagle, harbinger of so much destructive change, returns, ghostly, to bob like a shell in the offshore mist. Read full book review >
THE CHIZZYWINK AND THE ALAMAGOOZLUM by Tony Johnston
ANIMALS
Released: April 15, 1998

"The pages are scary enough to give readers shivers, but never downright chills. (Picture book. 4-8)"
Zeke and Zelda have just bundled themselves into bed when a voice outside calls, "Let me in! Read full book review >
SPARKY AND EDDIE by Tony Johnston
FICTION
Released: April 1, 1998

"A galloping tale of friendship, with enough cowboy antics to satisfy new readers, budding Buffalo Bills, and Annie Oakleywannabes alike. (Fiction. 5-7)"
 Best friends Sparky and Eddie are a pair of easy- readin'/easy-ridin' cowboys. Read full book review >
DAY OF THE DEAD by Tony Johnston
FICTION
Released: Sept. 1, 1997

"A warm, fictional introduction for an audience younger than that for the photo-essays by Kathryn Lasky (Days of the Dead, 1994) and Diane Hoyt-Goldsmith (Day of the Dead, 1994, not reviewed). (Picture book. 4-7)"
 The team that collaborated so gracefully on Diego (1991) returns with another little book showing how a Mexican family celebrates el d°a de los muertos, the holiday commemorating the dead. Read full book review >
THE GHOST OF NICHOLAS GREEBE by Tony Johnston
ANIMALS
Released: Sept. 1, 1996

"Schindler's best pen-and-ink efforts, suggestive of Edward Gorey in New England mode, put some meat on these bones, but this sputtering tale wouldn't spook Ichabod Crane. (Picture book. 4-8)"
 When old Nicholas Greebe dies on a wintry day, his shivering family buries him hastily in a shallow grave. Read full book review >
THE WAGON by Tony Johnston
FICTION
Released: Sept. 1, 1996

"Ransome's paintings give life to the characters and bring out the luster of the surroundings; the story is ardent and somber, a piercing lament. (Picture book. 5-10)"
 Johnston (The Ghost of Nicholas Greebe, p. 824, etc.) portrays the evils of slavery through the sufferings of a boy born a slave because his skin is the color of ``smooth, dark wood.'' The boy grows up under ``the whish of the lash''—he cried at the near- fatal beating of an old man and was himself whipped, and then ``striped good'' for a desperate act of vandalism. Read full book review >
THREE LITTLE BIKERS by Tony Johnston
FICTION
Released: Aug. 1, 1994

"Pleasant, low-key, inexpensive, minor. (Picture book. 5-7)"
 Three bicycling sheep pedal down a winding rural road, stopping at last on a grassy hill. Read full book review >
AMBER ON THE MOUNTAIN by Tony Johnston
FAMILY AND GROWING UP
Released: June 1, 1994

"An excellent addition to the alternate-ways-to-literacy shelf. (Picture book. 4-8)"
 Amber hasn't had a chance to learn to read; the only schoolmaster who ever came to her mountain home ``left his supplies behind and skedaddled before winter came.'' Will the man who comes to build a road also find his task too difficult? Read full book review >
THE TALE OF RABBIT AND COYOTE by Tony Johnston
ANIMALS
Released: May 12, 1994

"Source note. (Folklore/Picture book. 4-8)"
A Mexican trickster tale in which wily Rabbit outwits Coyote several times before escaping him permanently by climbing to the moon—which explains why Coyote is wont to howl at it. Read full book review >
LITTLE RABBIT GOES TO SLEEP by Tony Johnston
ANIMALS
Released: Jan. 30, 1994

"A charming bedtime book that should be with us for years to come. (Picture book. 2-6)"
 The little rabbit tries to go to sleep—he counts mosquitoes (one) and the feet of mice scurrying in the rafters (it can't be done: too many) and tries to ignore the scary dark; but finally he creeps down to the porch, where Grandpa's rocking chair is creaking. Read full book review >
LORENZO THE NAUGHTY PARROT by Tony Johnston
ANIMALS
Released: Oct. 1, 1992

"Caldecott Medalist Politi, now 84, provides a joyous complement of freely drawn, brightly painted illustrations that bring the scenes vibrantly to life. (Young reader/Picture book. 4-9)"
 Four loosely linked incidents in a nice Mexican family. Read full book review >
SLITHER McCREEP AND HIS BROTHER, JOE by Tony Johnston
ANIMALS
Released: April 1, 1992

 ``Joe won't share his beach ball'' and ``Joe won't let me use his rat robots'' are just two of the complaints that Slither has for his mother. Read full book review >
GOBLIN WALK by Tony Johnston
ANIMALS
Released: Sept. 5, 1991

"Not important but fun. (Picture book. 4-8)"
 Taking treats to his grandmother (``bugs and thorns and peppercorns''), a little goblin has mutually terrifying encounters with a bunny, a mouse, a butterfly, etc. Johnston makes the most of this familiar scenario in an artfully cadenced text with classic repetitions, nicely rounded in a cozy conclusion: ``Greeny'' and her grandson make cookies together. Read full book review >
GRANDPA'S SONG by Tony Johnston
FAMILY AND GROWING UP
Released: May 1, 1991

"Warmly evocative. (Picture book. 4-8)"
 An increasingly forgetful grandparent from a child's point of view: Big, hearty Grandpa amuses the kids with his songs, especially a silly one he's made up that pokes fun at his own performances. Read full book review >