The multilingual Gracie and her brainy dog MonkeyBear return for winter adventures in O’Kelly and Farrell’s (The Adventures of Gracie & MonkeyBear: Book 1: Summer, 2017) second series entry.
MonkeyBear has been preparing for a journey, judging from his consultation of a map of Yeti sightings and books about Yeti, Nepal, and airships. He and Gracie soon find huge footprints in Grandma’s yard, and a cry for help leads them to the cave of a Yeti whose yak has accidentally frozen its tongue to the ice. The authors celebrate science education by having Gracie smartly solve the problem by bouncing sunlight off of mirrors, but when it works too well, Gracie and MonkeyBear must carve an ice boat for themselves. Next, they rescue a snow leopard by turning their boat into an airship. Lastly, they encounter Denpa Druk, a Bhutanese Thunder Dragon (“Finally, MonkeyBear, I get to speak Dzongkha,” says Gracie), who needs help getting his magic stripes back—all before Grandma calls Gracie and MonkeyBear home. Overall, this sequel features just as many exciting encounters as the first book and as many delightful details in the pictures. One glorious illustration features fantastic cloud hues and sunlight while requiring the book to be turned sideways.
Fans are sure to look forward to what Gracie imagines in the spring.
An exuberant little girl who fancies pots meets a new babysitter in this debut chapter book.
May adores a lot of things: karate, boxing, her stuffed blue bunny named Sunshine, and conversations with her mother. But one of her loves is a bit more surprising: playing with pots (“Her favorites were those that fit on her head”). While other toys get boring, May can embark on endless adventures with these versatile kitchen tools. When Miss Josephine, the new sitter, comes to watch May for the first time, the girl feels afraid. But between the woman’s purple bag—full of fun games and toys that “make you think”—and Miss Josephine’s comforting words and hug when the girl expects to get scolded, May finds a new friend and discovers that using her imagination can help her become smarter. Seay’s delightful computer illustrations frequently use neutral backgrounds, which cause the colorful pots and May’s bright clothes to stand out. The all-black cast is headed by May, a charming youngster (likely between the ages of 4 and 6) with curly dark hair, whose facial expressions communicate a wide range of emotions within the work’s artistic style. The approachable vocabulary and early-chapter-book format—with images on every page—make this an accessible and appealing story for young readers, especially those who have struggled with their own fears of being left with strangers.
A bracing celebration of creativity with a strong main character who deserves her own series.
In this illustrated children’s book, a magical apricot falls to the ground and enchants a group of snails.
In an orchard, an ancient tree bears only a single fruit. This apricot falls to the ground, where no one notices it except some snails out for an excursion. They don’t know what this sphere on the ground is, but it’s so gorgeous that they can’t seem to forget about it. Is it a glass globe? A piece of the sun? A fruit from heaven? The oldest and wisest snail confirms this last guess: “It’s a golden apricot, with a thin and honeyed skin, flesh that’s sweet—a heavenly fruit to eat!” But as the snails gather round, the apricot implores them to leave her untouched. “Ordinary I am not,” she explains. “For I am Cybèle! A glorious apricot!” She tells them about the magic seed at her center and asks them to protect the place where she lies as a sanctuary. Night after night, they gather around her, chanting her praises. But one day, she’s nowhere to be found. The next spring, though, the snails discover a small sapling in the orchard, growing from a kind of stone. It’s Cybèle, minus her skin, and one day she’ll grow into a tree, she explains, and the snails rejoice. First-time author and illustrator Glenn, a former flower arranger at the famous Chez Panisse restaurant in California, paints her images in delicate, lovely washes of color. Cybèle glows in shades of gold and peach, and the snails are equally beautiful, rendered with attention to the details of their shells and spotted bodies. Although actual snails may seem to be inexpressive creatures, Glenn gives hers life and personality. When they search for Cybèle, for instance, their necks and tentacles stretch to look around, and one snail peers inquisitively underneath a mushroom cap; readers can feel their urgency. Overall, the book has a sense of strangeness and mystery, underscored by subtle rhymes in dialogue and the snails’ adoring chants: “Slip and slide; weave a spell. / Shimmer, shimmer, our Cybèle.” Some vocabulary words may challenge young readers, such as “nocturnal,” “perplexed,” “succulent,” and “scruples.”
A gorgeous, mysterious, and enchanting introduction to the circle of life.
Shakespeare’s words reach a new—very young—audience in this gorgeously illustrated board book offering a new story by debut adapter Parekh and veteran illustrator Amini (Chicken in the Kitchen, 2015, etc.) of fairies and animals to accompany lines from AMidsummer Night’s Dream.
Beginning with familiar visuals for young lap readers, the book opens with a roaring lion and a howling wolf. The animals, along with some fairy friends, free a tired donkey from his yoke while a ploughman sleeps. Joined by a mouse, a screech owl, and a growing population of fairies, the group hikes to the ruins of an old church, finding the three-faced Hecate, whose cloak contains the night. With the fervor of Maurice Sendak’s Wild Things on their rumpus, the characters frolic before they hush, assuring listeners if this has seemed too strange, it is “but a dream.” Soon, all the animals and their fairy friends drowse off as well, making for a lulling bedtime tale. Shakespeare’s lines are sure to challenge young independent readers, but for the youngest listeners, whose minds hear sounds and rhythms as much as the words they’re still learning to decode, the patterns here are as lovely on the ear as they are when spoken by Puck at the end of the famous play. Amini’s textured illustrations of the fearsome wolf and lion might intimidate youngsters if not for the playful fairies on every page, smiling, with wings blurred so that they actually appear to be moving out of the corner of a viewer’s eye. Hecate’s black-and-white, almost transparent form contrasts with the luxuriously rendered creatures, such as the brightly pigmented snake and fairies, some of whom have a three-dimensional appearance in their dress, like petals or scales. Parents who love Shakespeare will find this a perfect introduction to the works of the Bard—it’s at once sophisticated and approachable, with a whimsy that youngsters will enjoy.
Originally funded by a Kickstarter, this reinvention of Shakespeare’s verse into a new format is sure to be a hit with parents and their littlest listeners, too.
In her latest picture book, Dehghanpisheh (#BabyLove: My Social Life, 2016, etc.) shows the life of a curious child through the frame of the cellphone used to take his photo—until he gets his hands on the device.
The hero of the #BabyLove tales, now a tanned toddler, obviously has a mother who loves him. While he’s creating his art, she’s taking a photo of his paint-splattered smock. (The dog, with paint-dripped ears, looks less impressed.) After the art lesson, there’s reading and toy time, followed by a drumming session. Each shot features a view of the boy framed by his mother’s phone. Mother and son take a smiling selfie together, posting it to friends with the hashtag #mommyandme. With so much activity around the phone, it’s no surprise that the boy wants to experiment with it himself, so when Mommy leaves it on the counter, even though he knows better, he picks it up. First, he pretends he’s making a real phone call; then, he starts taking selfies. His huge smile shows how much fun he’s having: “I hold a button, and then say ‘Cheese.’ / I click, click, click, click with such ease.” When he hears Mommy coming, though, he drops the phone and makes a run for it. But rather than becoming angry, Mommy takes time to look at the photos with him, showing him the parts of his face in each shot as well as family pictures. And as Mommy looks at these photos, she realizes just how precious time with her wee one is. When they return to playing together, Mommy puts the phone down so she can fully engage with her son. With simple rhyming phrases that scan well and the author’s enticing illustrations, the volume should surely appeal to young readers, who have almost certainly been told not to play with a parent’s phone. But the book works on another level as well: the boy teaches his mother a valuable lesson about mindfulness. After perusing the old photos, she tells her son: “These moments with you, / I love and treasure.” This stirring story reminds busy parents that even though those photos they take show how much they love their children, there’s joy and wonder in leaving the technology behind.
This poignant and entertaining tale about a playful toddler aimed at young lap readers works on a much deeper level for parents.
A debut picture book introduces concepts of Aristotelian logic that can help children learn how to better define the inhabitants and aspects of their world.
Beginning with the title words and a detailed illustration of a mother duck with her ducklings, this tale examines two groups: ducks and birds. On the next page, accompanied by the image of a honking goose so lifelike the reader can almost hear it, author and illustrator Zrinski writes: “All geese are birds, / but, no geese are ducks.” She continues that swans are also birds but not ducks, using this example to clarify the concept before moving on to something more complex: all of those birds can fly, but does that mean all birds have that ability? Savvy young readers will already know the answer and should be pleased that they’re correct when they see the cheerful-looking, earthbound ostriches on the next page. Zrinski then points out that all birds have feathers, including penguins (who also cannot fly), and asks readers to compare penguins and puffins, who look similar—they’re black and white—but are quite distinct. After establishing that some birds can fly and others can’t in her amusing story, Zrinski looks at whether they all can swim, given that so many of the creatures mentioned are swimmers. But not ostriches! (“No! Ostriches do not swim / Some ostriches sit in puddles / Sitting in puddles is not swimming.”) Yet all birds lay eggs. By offering all of these concrete details and asking children to think about how the birds relate to one another using an approachable, kid-friendly vocabulary, the text will likely have independent and lap readers and parent-child teams eagerly answering Zrinski’s questions and making their guesses and comparisons about these feathered friends. Parents may see how such assessments teach children to consider the big picture, comparing not just birds, but other animals or, beyond that, shapes, genres of fiction, or social groups. The application is far-ranging, but children may learn the building blocks from sheer enjoyment rather than considering these useful points formal lessons.
With wonderfully realistic colored-pencil images and a kid-friendly text, this highly entertaining tale explores the notion of groups, showing the attributes of different types of birds.
In this debut illustrated children’s book, a young black bear makes a dangerous journey to help the brown bear that she loves.
Bear of Trees—called “Betrees” for short—grows up in the Eastern Woods. Most of her fur is dark, like her mother’s, but she also has a white, heart-shaped spot on her forehead because her father was a polar bear. When she turns 2 years old, Betrees finds her own den and settles in for a winter’s sleep, waking up thin, hungry, and in search of food and someone to love. Gojoon, a bossy male bear, tries to make Betrees his bride, but she resists and is defended by Ben, a brave, kind brown bear. For Betrees and Ben, it’s love at first sight, and they agree to meet again in about two months. Ben doesn’t return, though, so Betrees visits the owl oracle, who tells her that her loved one is in trouble and that she must cross the dangerous Metallic River—a road full of cars—to save him. After overcoming many dangers, she and Ben reunite and save two humans whose car crashed. One, a little girl, later tells her story to National Geographic: “Please don’t shoot bears,” she says. “They are not all as dangerous as they seem.” The book ends with Betrees and Ben on their honeymoon. Alexander tells a charming, delightful story. Betrees is both lovable and admirable, helping other animals and exhibiting considerable courage in rescuing Ben, who shares her qualities. They’re each other’s heroes, which greatly bolsters the story’s love-at-first-sight element. The narrative also thoughtfully considers the role of humans: some are dangerous, but others are helpful, as Ben recalls in a childhood memory. High praise goes to the beautiful illustrations by Tsintsadze (Wie bekamen Igel Stacheln, 2015, etc.), rendered in soft, forest-y shades of blue, gray-green, and brown. The pictures of fat bears and other animals are expressive and engaging, featuring wonderful details, such as Betrees’ tail poking out of her polka-dot nightgown, and their lovely Gustav Klimt–like swirls and other textures lend a fanciful air.
A funny, dramatic, and sweet story that ought to become a classic.