New Picture books that Celebrate Snow

December 2, 2016

snowNothing says winter like Snow!  (Except if you are in Portland, then it’s Rain–or in LA, where it’s Sun!)  But we can dream–and remember the sweet crisp smell of new snow and the clean fresh blanket covering the earth that made the world look like a winter wonderland.  Sigh.  When we took a look at these brand new picture books that celebrate snow, we found ourselves nostalgic and drawn to those endearing memories.  For those of you who live where snow is surrounding you–and those of you who remember those cozy days of snowfall–here are  a few books for anticipating the winter holidays.


best-in-snowBest in Snow by April Pulley Saire

Images can often say it best, especially when the photographer is April Pulley Saire, award-winning photographer.  Filled with gorgeous pictures, this book is also perfect for sharing with young scientists as the marvels of the natural world come alive in the captivating poetic text.  Truly a delightful and appropriate read for the changing seasons and an understanding of the life cycles of snow and the journey from lakes and rivers, to the clouds, and back the earth again.  Spell-binding.


poem-for-peterA Poem for Peter:  The Story of Ezra Jack Keats and the Creation of The Snowy Day by Andrea David Pinkney, Illustrated by Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher

This book makes me cry every time I read it.  First, it brings back my love of The Snowy Day and the power it has always had for children.  And to know more about the author and artist, Ezra Jack Keats, opens a whole new world behind the creation of this classic and ground-breaking book.  I had no idea this visionary artist was a Polish immigrant, suffering the hardships not only of coming to a new country, but the discrimination of anti-Semitism.  Pinkney’s verse is masterful and appropriately poetic:  “Brown-sugar child,/when you and your hue/burst onto the scene,/all of us came out to play.”  The images are an ode to Keats’ work using mixed-media collages of prints, fabrics, photos, and paint, all of which capture the liveliness of the urban setting and historical points.  If you buy one picture book this year to add to your collection, this is the one!


before-morningBefore Morning by Joyce Sidman

Have you ever done a little snow dance to “encourage” a snow day and no school/no work the next day?  If so, you’ll appreciate the  young child in this story who chants a poetic invocation to bring a snowy day to her family for the following morning.  What a treat to be able to spend an unhurried, leisurely day together when the weather prevents the normal schedule and routine!  We love the quiet beauty of this book, with its gorgeous scratch board illustrations.  A gift for your own snowy day!


HEARTLESS by Marissa Meyer: Recommended!

November 26, 2016

heartlessHeartless by Marissa Meyer

We are delighted to share–and recommend–Marissa Meyer’s latest YA title:  HEARTLESS, a stand-alone novel that tells the back story of the Queen of Hearts (and other characters) of ALICE IN WONDERLAND fame. As a girl, Catherine is a delightful and talented young woman, one you’d want for a friend.  She wants to make her own way as a baker with her best friend Mary Ann rather than marry the King of Hearts.  But her mother is determined that she should become Queen and Cath hates to disappoint. . .until she meets Jest, the new joker of the Court–a handsome, intriguing, and mysterious young man.  In her quest to frame her own destiny, we come to know other characters in the land of Hearts and Chess and Looking Glass Land.  It’s a place of distorted fairy tales, magic, and not a little madness.  Meyer is at her best in this tale, creating a magical and believable fractured fairy tale.  You’ll never see the Chesire Cat, the Mad Hatter, the Mock Turtle, or Peter Peter Pumpkin Eater in the same way.  And you’ll have a new appreciation of The Queen of Hearts.   And if Marissa Meyer is a new author to you, you’re in luck!  Check out her wonderful series The Lunar Chronicles.  You won’t be disappointed! (For reviews of the individual books in this series, check out our earlier posts here.)

Leonard Nimoy and Ruth Bader Ginsberg: Two New Picture Book Biographies to Recommend!

November 19, 2016

Want to introduce the young readers in your life to two important contemporary figures?  No better way than through the magic of picture book bios of Leonard Nimoy and Ruth Bader Ginsberg, hot off the presses.  Guaranteed to entice and encourage kids to learn more about these and other 20th and 21st century greats.

fascinatingFascinating:  The Life of Leonard Nimoy by Richard Michelson, illustrated by Edel Rodriguez

This biography is really the perfect mix of a detailed investigation into the life of Leonard Nimoy, and a wide appeal for larger themes to share with kids, such as:  feelings of alienation, the power of creativity and the arts, the importance of foundational cultural insights and understandings, and more.  There is a great deal of irony in Nimoy’s early experiences and his ultimate success as Mr. Spock.  For example, when his Yiddish-speaking Jewish immigrant parents arrived in the US, their passports were stamped “alien.”  Being “other” was certainly how the whole family felt as they learned new traditions and ways to be “American.” It’s also a lot of fun to see the young Leonard and his love of acting and music.  The author writes about Nimoy with compassion and a great deal of tenderness.  (I loved learning about the roots of Mr. Spock’s famous Vulcan greeting gesture  being in Jewish tradition.)


ginsbergI Dissent:  Ruth Bader Ginsberg Makes Her Mark by Debbie Levy, illustrated by Elizabeth Baddeley

A perfect book for the times:  the importance of thoughtful dissent.  This biography of Ruth Bader Ginsberg tells the story of her life through the lens of her many “dissents.”  As a Supreme Court justice, she  has spent a lifetime disagreeing: disagreeing with inequality, arguing against unfair treatment, and standing up for what’s right for people everywhere.  Love this book on so many levels.  Inspiring and informational, and also tells the quiet but important story of her friendship with Justice Scalia though she dissented with his opinions constantly.




November 11, 2016

some-writerSome Writer:  The Story of E.B. White by Melissa Sweet

Written for children, Some Writer transcends to appeal to all ages.  One of the famous lines of Charlotte’s Web is spun by the spider Charlotte herself, where she saves Wilbur from slaughter by the miraculous “Some Pig.”  E.B. White is surely “some writer,” and Melissa Sweet’s book attests to his writerly life. Through a scrap-book retelling of his life, we as readers come to delight with him in his love of words, appreciation of nature, and emotional depth; even though he himself wrote Charlotte’s death, he recounts that he could never reread the pages without tearing up. Painstaking research went into this biography, and Sweet is able to do what many biographers fail to do:  create a lively and accessible story of the life of an incredible author.

Celebrating Literacy: Three New Picture Books

November 5, 2016

When we read Some Writer–the subject of an upcoming blog–we found ourselves re-energized about books about reading and writing.  We’ve focused on this wonderful little genre of picture books before (Picture Books for WritersBooks:  Eat or Be Eaten and decided it was time for a re-visit blog.  So, with great pleasure, we present to you three recently published picture books that are mini-odes to the joys of literacy.

let-me-finishLet Me Finish by Minh Le, illustrated by Isabelle Roxas

Don’t you just hate it when noisy animals keep interrupting your reading–and ruining the story because they can’t resist telling you what’s going to happen before you get to read it yourself?  Even though our young hero goes to great lengths to protect himself from these pesky animals, they follow him everywhere–his home, the forest, the jungle, the mountains, the sea.  Humorous and engaging, you and your young audiences will get a kick out of this one.  And be on the lookout for a surprise ending!


child-of-booksA Child of Books by Oliver Jeffers and Sam Winston

Our charming narrator has no name–she simply calls herself a “child of books” in this unique book on the power of story-telling. The pictures are a central focus of the book, with hand-lettered words, pictures in collage, pencil, and watercolor (by two gifted illustrators!), and objects built from words borrowed from classic stories.  The narration itself is lyrical, told in verse, and an ode to the land of make-believe.  The young girl in the tale meets a boy who seems lonely, his father only reading the newspaper and ignoring the sea of words from fiction swirling around them. She leads the boy off on an adventure of stories. Down rabbit holes, up mountains, through dark tunnels, into fairy tale woods, past monsters in castles, into the clouds for bedtime stories, and much more. They return home, to a bright colored house on a gray street, and the boy leaves with a book under his arm trailing words behind him.  A magical and whimsical book for children, adolescents, and adults, too.


storybook-knightThe Storybook Knight by Helen Docherty, illustrated by Thomas Docherty

When you are a knight sent off to fight a dragon, what do you need to take with you?  For young Leo (a “gentle knight”), that would be a sword, a shield, and a pile of his favorite books.  Leo is a knight fond of adventures, but he prefers the kind you read in books. When he meets foes looking for fights, he tells them stories to calm them.  It turns out that even a dangerous dragon loves a good tale.  Rhyming text and intriguing illustrations combine to make this a delightful book to read–and share.



October 29, 2016

magnusMagnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard, Book 2:  The Hammer of Thor by Rick Riordan

Readers of this blog will remember that we are enthusiastic fans of Riordan’s latest series.

Book 2 takes us deeper into the Norse mythology, with Riordan’s signature sense of humor and contemporary setting. Thor’s missing hammer is at the heart of the adventure, so we get to meet once again with the hilarious and somewhat dim Thor as he enlists the help of the heroes to get back his hammer.  Otherwise, the worlds are all at risk, as Loki is hoping to bring about the end of the world through the predicted Ragnarock. Loki is his trickster, compelling, not to mention horrifying self.

In the tales of Old, Loki often changes gender, becoming mother to some of her children, and father to many of his others.  Riordan creates the character of the gender-shifting Alex, who describes herself (and himself) as “gender fluid.”  The deaf elf Hearthstone and the fashion-designer dwarf Blitzten remain favorites, true loyal friends throughout the saga–and we get to visit their worlds more in Book 2 and come to understand their contexts and family histories. Adventure abounds, as Magnus relies on cunning and his friends to thwart a wedding, recapture magical relics and weapons, try to adjust to being dead and a warrior at Valhalla–and ultimately, to connect with his cousin–and (spoiler alert!) plan to meet Percy!

Don’t miss this amazing adventure–and stay tuned for Book 3 next year!

WE FOUND A HAT by Jon Klassen: Final Book in the Hat Series!

October 22, 2016

hatWe Found a Hat by Jon Klassen

If you’re like me and many readers of Klassen’s hat trilogy, you wondered what twist he would put on this final book.  I was right to trust Klassen’s wit and cleverness, and hilarious drawings; in short, it’s a hit. Instead of a fish or a bear, this tale features two turtles who find a hat.  A quite stunning cowboy hat that frankly, looks quite well on both of them.  Hmm, but there is only one hat.  The visual comedy is all in the shifting eyes of the turtles, especially one who is particularly drawn to that fine hat.  Of course, this book is a wonderful book for the youngest readers, but the visual comedy and implied emotions are actually perfect for older audiences as well.  I should mention, there’s a sweetness to this book that makes it a very satisfying conclusion to the three books.  Share it with friends and family!