A delightful depiction of the parallel lives of a young girl and a tiny chick from dawn to dusk.
Preschooler Naomi stretches to greet the day while a picture of a wide-eyed yellow chick looks on passively from the wall behind her bed. Appel’s lithe translation from the Hebrew of Golan’s plain, lightly rhymed verse describes consecutive phases of a typical day in the little girl’s life, with each segment ending with the refrain, “But not Little Chick.” Awakened by her father, Naomi brushes her teeth, eats, goes to preschool, plays, makes art, listens to a story, naps, goes shopping with her mother, puts on her pajamas and eventually hops back into bed with her stuffed bear—“But not Little Chick.” Those following the text alone might think the only thing Little Chick has in common with Naomi is “snuggl[ing] in for the night” and feel a bit sorry for her. But the visual narrative portrayed in Karas’ warmly expressive crayon-and-pencil illustrations on the right side of each spread reveals an equally adventuresome, action-packed day for Little Chick. Pre-readers are sure to revel in the hilarious mischief Little Chick enjoys with barnyard friends, while those reading to them will be fascinated by the effective conveyance of this information through images alone.
The true essence of a picture book: a unique balance of visual and written narrative sure to enchant young and old alike.
(Picture book. 3-6)
Hibernation is for grown-ups—Little Bear has adventure on his mind.
In mad pursuit of a bee, Little Bear races through the forest, farther and farther away from his snoozing, cave-bound father: “Little Bear is too caught up in honey thoughts to hear winter’s whisper. A busy sort of buzzing beckons him instead.” Eagle-eyed readers can track the bear and bee all the way to Paris from the French countryside, devouring the hundreds of fanciful details that populate each gorgeous, oversized, double-page spread. When Papa Bear wakes up and sees his errant cub is missing, he too dashes off, eventually ending up at the Opéra Garnier and—oo la la!—even finding his voice onstage: “Grooooaaaarrrr!” Minidramas unfold by the square inch on delicious curry-, paprika- and olive-colored pages—cloaked and shifty-eyed lurkers, a mysterious lady with a poodle, a monkey-hatted child. Even in the Opéra’s exquisitely rendered architectural flourishes lurk images of forest beasts, and the honeycomb endpapers aptly flank the busy visual hive within. The playful, poetic text—brilliantly translated from the original French—hums along as nature and culture stylishly collide: “Now where could that bee and that Little Bear be?”
This extraordinary picture book, first published in France as Une chanson d’ours (2011), is as happy a surprise as finding a honey-filled hive at the end of a fur-raising journey.
(Picture book. 2-8)
Sensing that the moon needs cheering up, a young inventor provides instructions for an expedition to plant sunflowers there.
Gerstein, who profiled The Man Who Walked Between the Towers in 2003, had begun by imagining an even greater challenge, which he describes here. Addressing readers directly, his busy narrator offers a “simple but brilliant” 24-step plan for space travel using 2,000 used truck inner tubes for a slingshot; 238,900 miles of garden hose for a tightrope to the moon; and a suit borrowed from NASA. Special clamps will help the bicycle stay on the hose, which serves double duty; it’s also a conduit for water for the plants. Step by step and sub-step, the boy explains the process. His instructions are straightforward but cheerfully outlandish. They include details with special appeal for listeners (the “really cool sound” of the launch). The pacing is perfect, and illustrations add to the humor. (Pay careful attention to the moon’s changing expressions.) Pen-and-ink and oil-painted panels expand to show the journey. Captions, which had been securely attached to the edges of the frames while the boy was earthbound, float around on full-bleed double-page spreads until they sink back to the bottoms of the concluding panels.
The whole is a grand flight of fancy perfect for a new generation of dreamers and planners. (Picture book. 5-9)
Bedtime diversions and traditional rhymes are a winning combination here.
When Bonnie and Ben’s favorite babysitter, Skinny Doug, offers a bedtime salute of “Good night, sleep tight. / Hope the fleas don’t bite!” he embarks on a command performance of seven traditional rhymes. The not-very-sleepy duo keeps him going, as he recites from his personal repertoire: “ ‘We love it! we love it!’ said Bonnie and Ben./ ‘How does it go? Will you say it again?’ ” This catchy refrain follows each of the resourceful babysitter’s rhymes. To their entreaties to repeat each one, Skinny Doug replies, “I’ll tell you another / I learned from my mother.” After “Good night, sleep tight,” Skinny Doug offers “It’s raining, it’s pouring,” “This little piggie,” “Pat-a-cake,” “Round and round the garden,” “This is the way the ladies ride,” and “Star light, star bright.” The engaging, economical framing text is memorable and sweetly appealing, sure to encourage little listeners to participate. The finite number of rhymes introduced before the babysitter hustles Bonnie and Ben off to sleep is just right: It’s enough for one sitting, where larger collections bring the inevitable negotiation about where to stop. Horacek’s simple, solid lines and primary colors are friendly, cheery and almost exuberantly inviting.
Sure to be requested and welcome for lapsits and reciting together any time of day.
(Picture book. 1-5)
Young readers and listeners will feel like cheering when this unprepossessing hero gets his due.
Davies’ signature caricature art lends itself perfectly to an exaggerated visual accompaniment for this earnest, simple and sweet tale of a boy, his bike and a bully. Ben’s great new bike takes him by any route he likes to school, including the long one over hill and dale, hopping across a stream on the heads of what look like sharks, leaping a line of school buses. But, alas, arrival at school only means that Adrian Underbite (“perhaps the world’s largest third-grader”) makes off with Ben’s bike. When Ben later finds Adrian in “a significant spot of trouble,” both readers and Ben may find that doing the right thing is not the first thought that comes to mind. “How extraordinarily terrible,” Ben muses sardonically. There are a few tense moments in the brief narrative when it seems that no good deed will go unpunished, but a familiar story emerges—spoiler here: A bully has a change of heart—and it becomes astonishingly fresh and fun in Davies’ hands. Davies’ cheeky, cheerfully frayed line gives readers figures somewhat larger than life—and indeed twice as natural. Ben’s hasty, heroic hoodie rescue is dramatic and funny, and the last line and accompanying illustration will provoke out-loud laughter.
Great amusement for the bold and timid alike.
(Picture book. 4-8)
An early reader shaped just like a chapter book: What’s not to love?
For emergent readers who view themselves as accomplished (or wish to be seen that way), this, one of the publisher’s Branches line, might just be the perfect choice. Boris, a not-particularly-attractive hog, is frustrated. Although he and his parents live in a bus that once took them on fabulous vacations, now the old vehicle is permanently parked, and he longs for adventure. Finally, his empathetic parents fire up the engine to bring him on a journey that, it disappointingly turns out, is only across town to a nature preserve. However, Boris, his anger vividly portrayed in his frazzled body language, contrives to get himself satisfyingly lost. Happily, he’s found, first by a cat in need of a home and then by his parents. Full-color illustrations of his humorously anthropomorphized hog family and just one or two sentences of easy, large-print text per page make this an inviting read for transitioning readers, although they may initially be a bit daunted by the misleading appearance of a full 74 pages of narrative—including a simple science experiment.
The brief text and a chapter format both make this a manageable and entertaining accomplishment for most young readers as well as an amusing listening experience for those not quite able to tackle it alone. (Early reader. 4-7)
Weaving legacy and myth into science and magic, old into new and enemies into friends, Blakemore creates an exquisite mystery.
Crystal Springs, Maine, “isn’t on the map,” but it’s still where Price, Ephraim and Brynn’s mother brings their family when their father has a stroke. The “looming stone house” with hidden floors and impossible rooms, owned by their family (the Appledores) for over a century, was once a resort that claimed its spring water had healing properties—possibly a fountain of youth. Ephraim struggles to fit in at Crystal Springs’ peculiarly overachieving school; his classmate Mallory steels herself against her mother’s recent departure and her teacher’s assignment to study Matthew Henson (“He just assumed she would want to do him, because Henson was black too”). While Mallory, Ephraim and another sixth-grader named Will unravel the castle’s secrets (each for different reasons, all serious) and confront age-old hostility among their families, a 1908 storyline unfolds: Young Nora Darling (Mallory’s relative) assists old Orlando Appledore in feverish scientific research. Peary and Henson’s Arctic expedition features in both timelines; science, history and literature references glow; Nikola Tesla visits Nora and Orlando. With keen intelligence and bits of humor, the prose slips calmly between narrative perspectives, trusting readers to pick up a revelation that Ephraim and Mallory don’t see—and it’s a doozy.
Eleven-year-old Serafina has a dream: to go to school and become a doctor. Yet her life outside of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, is filled with urgent chores and responsibilities.
A natural healer, Serafina has already witnessed the loss of baby brother Pierre to disease and hunger, wishing she could have done more to save him. Now Manman is about to have another baby. How will her family ever do without Serafina’s help or afford her school uniform? Burg uses gentle language and graceful imagery to create the characters that make up Serafina’s loving family—Papa, Manman and Gogo, her wise grandmother. (Sadly, Granpè was taken away long ago by the Tonton Macoutes.) Told in first-person verse appealing to both reluctant and passionate readers, the novel is woven with Haitian history, culture and Creole phrases. Readers will root for this likable heroine as she overcomes obstacles—poverty, family obligations, the catastrophic 2010 earthquake—in her effort to emulate her mentor, Antoinette Solaine, the physician who tried to save Pierre. The spirit of the text’s celebration of the power of determination, family, friendship and love is ably captured in Sean Quall’s delightful cover art.
Lilting, lyrical and full of hope.
(Historical fiction. 10-14)
A graphic-novel account of the science and history that first created and then, theoretically, destroyed the terrifying Dust Bowl storms that raged in the United States during the “dirty thirties.”
“A speck of dust is a tiny thing. Five of them could fit on the period at the end of this sentence.” This white-lettered opening is set against a roiling mass of dark clouds that spills from verso to recto as a cartoon farmer and scores of wildlife flee for their lives. The dialogue balloon for the farmer—“Oh my God! Here it comes!”—is the first of many quotations (most of them more informative) from transcripts of eyewitnesses. These factual accounts are interspersed with eloquently simple explanations of the geology of the Great Plains, the mistake of replacing bison with cattle and other lead-ups to the devastations of the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression. The comic-book–style characters create relief from the relentlessly grim stories of hardship and loss, set in frames appropriately backgrounded in grays and browns. Although readers learn of how the U.S. government finally intervened to help out, the text does not spare them from accounts of crippling droughts even in the current decade.
From its enticing, dramatic cover to its brown endpapers to a comical Grant Wood–esque final image, this is a worthy contribution to the nonfiction shelves.
(bibliography, source notes, photographs)
(Graphic nonfiction. 10 & up)
A 10-year-old Choctaw boy recounts the beginnings of the forced resettlement of his people from their Mississippi-area homelands in 1830.
He begins his story with a compelling hook: “Maybe you have never read a book written by a ghost before. I am a ghost. I am not a ghost when this book begins, so you have to pay very close attention.” Readers meet Isaac, his family and their dog, Jumper, on the day that Treaty Talk changes everything. Even as the Choctaw prepare to leave their homes, Isaac begins to have unsettling visions: Some elders are engulfed in flames, and others are covered in oozing pustules. As Isaac and his family set out on the Choctaw Trail of Tears, these visions begin to come true, as some are burned to death by the Nahullos and others perish due to smallpox-infested blankets distributed on the trail. But the Choctaw barrier between life and death is a fluid one, and ghosts follow Isaac, providing reassurance and advice that allow him to help his family and others as well as to prepare for his own impending death. Storyteller Tingle’s tale unfolds in Isaac’s conversational voice; readers “hear” his story with comforting clarity and are plunged into the Choctaw belief system, so they can begin to understand it from the inside out.
The beginning of a trilogy, this tale is valuable for both its recounting of a historical tragedy and its immersive Choctaw perspective
. (Historical fiction. 8-12)