Bob, Not Bob!

There aren’t many picture books about being sick, probably because being sick is not fun for kids (or anyone). But when Little Louie’s nose is so stuffed, no one can understand what he says or what he really needs. And it’s funny! So enjoy Bob, Not Bob! by Liz Garton Scanlon and Audrey Vernick, illustrated by Matthew Cordell.

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Mary Who Wrote Frankenstein

First off, Júlia Sardà’s illustrations are the perfect mix of shadowy angles for a biography of a horror writer. The double page spread of Castle Frankenstein (a real place! and inspiration, perhaps, for Mary’s famous title) uses a limited dark palette to great effect.

The text, by Linda Bailey, begins when Mary Shelley is a girl, and shows all of those influences that may have sparked her masterpiece, Frankenstein. When she gets older, Mary meets writers and spends stormy evenings reading scary stories. She writes her own scary story as a challenge, and it takes nine months! The importance of imagination and daydreaming, as well as the persistence of a woman (in the early 1800s when men were the writers), are strong themes throughout.

A thoroughly enjoyable picture book biography for all ages.

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Fox the Tiger

I don’t often review easy reader books, however, Corey R. Tabor‘s Fox the Tiger made me and my family laugh aloud. Laughing is a precious thing, and besides, this book covers a theme we all know about: wanting to be someone else. In Fox’s case, he wants to be a Tiger so he paints on stripes and insists he is Tiger. Turtle follows suit and becomes Race Car. Rabbit becomes Robot.

I won’t tell you what happens next, but the plot does come full circle, and all of this with short sentences, limited vocabulary, and plenty of subtext. This book won the 2019 Theodor Seuss Geisel Award.

Learning to read was never so much fun!

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What Do You Do With a Voice Like That?

What Do You Do With a Voice Like That?: The Story of Extraordinary Congresswoman Barbara Jordan by Chris Barton, illustrated by Ekua Holmes, tells the true story of Barbara Jordan’s life, beginning with her childhood. In 1966, Barbara Jordan became the first African American woman to be elected to the Texas Senate. She became friends with President Johnson after discussing civil rights at the White House. Her many accomplishments are listed in the timeline in the backmatter of the book, but what’s really significant about this picture book is the time it takes to show us how Barbara got to those accomplishments, the time when she was young and trying to figure out what to do with her voice.

Chris Barton’s text presents Barbara Jordan’s life in a compelling and thoughtful way, and Ekua Holmes illustrates in her signature bright mixed media, giving the book its beautiful stand-out quality.

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Little Red

I have a fascination with Little Red Riding Hood. I’ve read many, many versions of this story, and even did my myth project on it for my graduate certificate in children’s literature. Bethan Woollvin‘s Little Red is a solid retelling with a little twist. After all, there’s no way big bad wolf can make anyone believe he’s her grandma. When Little Red calls out the questions we all know so well, there’s a whole lot of subtext going on. Let’s hear it for Little Red, who can save herself and her grandma!


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Drawn From Nature

This picture book about the seasons is unique in many ways. First, Helen Ahpornsiri focuses on the animals and their varying activities throughout spring, summer, winter and fall. Little known facts make it an interesting read. Second, Ahpornsiri’s illustrations are detailed collages of pressed flowers, ferns and plant matter, stunningly arranged. For example, the double page spread of “Red Fox at Night” tells how a fox hears the sounds of its prey beneath the snow’s surface. The fox is luminescent with flowers and foliage against the black background, and nearby, spiderwebs glow in the frosty air.

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You’re Snug With Me

Here’s a cozy story for winter. You’re Snug With Me by Chitra Soundar and illustrated by Poonam Mistry is a warm-hearted story about polar bears and their arctic environment. The illustrations are an intricate tapestry of yellows, purples and blues, and the text is a gentle reminder to take care of the world we love. Like Marie-Louise Gay’s Stella series, the young ones ask many questions, but in You’re Snug With Me, the answers are less whimsical and more wise.

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I Just Ate My Friend

I Just Ate My Friend is the title and first line of this picture book by Heidi McKinnon, so you already know quite a bit about the plot. It follows the classic pattern of the “Have you seen my mother?/Will you be my friend?” books and is a great read for fans of Jon Klassen’s I Want My Hat Back. The art is bright and expressive with the beautiful starry sky as the backdrop for each double page spread. 

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The Little Barbarian

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I do love wordless picture books, but I’ve avoided them a bit the past few years since it seems to be a micro-trend within the picture book world, and wordlessness just doesn’t work for many narratives. Wordlessness has to be a choice the illustrator makes because it is the best choice, which is exactly what Renato Moriconi does in The Little Barbarian.

A sword and shield-bearing barbarian is unfased through attacks of birds, arrows, monsters and more, until…nothing. The barbarian looks up at the emptiness, and for the first time, there is emotion on his face: surprise, then sadness. Reading through initially, I thought this was the end, and it would be a good ending. But wonder of all wonders, the next two double page spreads change the narrative entirely. It’s delightful, and would be fun to compare this book’s ending to the ending in Julie Roach’s The Bear Ate Your Sandwich.

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Marigold & Daisy

9781454922933-1There are a lot of new sibling books out there, but Marigold & Daisy covers the topic in a completely fun and original way, and even subverts the expected sweet ending. Andrea Zuill‘s genius is in the melding of narration and dialogue (the dialogue is in text bubbles), which allows for a really strong and spare text. But there’s also genius in Zuill’s adorable, expressive insects–yes, this is a book about snails, and how Marigold is tired of her cute little sister who gets all of the attention. There’s a bit of Judith Viorst’s Alexander in Marigold, but it’s endearing. Discuss this book alongside Bad Guy and other picture books about siblings.

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