A warmhearted, eye-pleasing new “Rock-a-Bye Baby” picture book in verse, nicely calibrated for cozy bedtime reading.

In the Tree Top

A NEW LULLABY

Using the well-loved “Rock-a-Bye Baby” lyrics as their springboard, a writer/editor with a literary-press background and her collaborator, an accomplished watercolorist, have created a pretty new picture book shaped around reassuring verses.

“Rock-a-bye baby in the tree top / When the wind blows the cradle will rock, / When the bough breaks the cradle will fall, / And down will come baby cradle and all.” This traditional lullaby, known to generations (the original rhyme goes back centuries), has long inspired children’s authors, music artists—and undoubtedly parents and other caregivers—to put their own stamp on it. Jones (a writer, editor, and advising assistant director of Wake Forest University Press) and artist Emery contribute to the mix with a combination of tender new verses and delicate watercolor paintings. Jones begins her addition to the familiar rhyme: “When the bough breaks / I’ll be right there / And I will catch you as you fall through the air.” She continues in that soothing vein—“The world is so big and you are so small, / I’ll always hear you whenever you call”—and ends with this parental affirmation: “Trees grow up tall / But love never stops ... /  Someday you’ll go climbing / To the tree tops!” Emery’s illustrations, rendered in a soft, cool color palette, provide an opportunity for cozy parent-child interaction, too, guided by Jones’ back-of-book, seek-and-find list of people and animals to be discovered throughout: “p.7 One green hound dog, one baby,” “p.13 Two hound dogs, two yellow fish, five horses, one mother, one baby,” “p.21 One big bear, three cats, one bird, one squirrel, two bunnies, one raccoon, and one baby! Do you see the train?” A musical performance of Jones’ new verses, sung by recording artist Laurelyn Dossett, available as a free download, demonstrates the words’ rhythmic pattern. A notice at the website states that a portion of the book’s sales will benefit child-abuse prevention and animal welfare nonprofits.

A warmhearted, eye-pleasing new “Rock-a-Bye Baby” picture book in verse, nicely calibrated for cozy bedtime reading.

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-9965202-0-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Black Dog Cottage Publishing

Review Posted Online: Sept. 23, 2015

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ABIYOYO RETURNS

The seemingly ageless Seeger brings back his renowned giant for another go in a tuneful tale that, like the art, is a bit sketchy, but chockful of worthy messages. Faced with yearly floods and droughts since they’ve cut down all their trees, the townsfolk decide to build a dam—but the project is stymied by a boulder that is too huge to move. Call on Abiyoyo, suggests the granddaughter of the man with the magic wand, then just “Zoop Zoop” him away again. But the rock that Abiyoyo obligingly flings aside smashes the wand. How to avoid Abiyoyo’s destruction now? Sing the monster to sleep, then make it a peaceful, tree-planting member of the community, of course. Seeger sums it up in a postscript: “every community must learn to manage its giants.” Hays, who illustrated the original (1986), creates colorful, if unfinished-looking, scenes featuring a notably multicultural human cast and a towering Cubist fantasy of a giant. The song, based on a Xhosa lullaby, still has that hard-to-resist sing-along potential, and the themes of waging peace, collective action, and the benefits of sound ecological practices are presented in ways that children will both appreciate and enjoy. (Picture book. 5-9)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-689-83271-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2001

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A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift.

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BECAUSE I HAD A TEACHER

A paean to teachers and their surrogates everywhere.

This gentle ode to a teacher’s skill at inspiring, encouraging, and being a role model is spoken, presumably, from a child’s viewpoint. However, the voice could equally be that of an adult, because who can’t look back upon teachers or other early mentors who gave of themselves and offered their pupils so much? Indeed, some of the self-aware, self-assured expressions herein seem perhaps more realistic as uttered from one who’s already grown. Alternatively, readers won’t fail to note that this small book, illustrated with gentle soy-ink drawings and featuring an adult-child bear duo engaged in various sedentary and lively pursuits, could just as easily be about human parent- (or grandparent-) child pairs: some of the softly colored illustrations depict scenarios that are more likely to occur within a home and/or other family-oriented setting. Makes sense: aren’t parents and other close family members children’s first teachers? This duality suggests that the book might be best shared one-on-one between a nostalgic adult and a child who’s developed some self-confidence, having learned a thing or two from a parent, grandparent, older relative, or classroom instructor.

A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-943200-08-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Compendium

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

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