Monday, January 6, 2020

Picture Book Roundup #2

Hey, I'm an Amazon associate which means if you purchase items after clicking the links on my site I get a small commission. 

What better way to kick off 2020 than with amazing picture books? Here are ten of my recent favorites.

Around the Table That Granddad Built by Melanie Heuser Hill, illustrated by Jaime Kim (Candlewick Press, 2019). This bright and bouncy story features a diverse family gathering and sharing a meal together, celebrating in the inherited dishes, cooking vegetables they grew in their garden, and making traditional and non-traditional dishes. This is a great Thanksgiving book that's not overtly Thanksgiving-y but definitely fits with the season. The first part of the book follows the format of The House That Jack Built, but after the table's set the form deviates into listing the vegetables and dishes they're cooking. It's a little odd, but still a good readaloud and a great one to share when talking about family, food, or being thankful.

Bird Watch by Christie Matheson (Greenwillow Books, 2019). This would make a really great read for a family who likes to bird to introduce young children to some of the techniques and concepts involved. In each spread, there are things to find, whether birds (sometimes identified by their unique plumage) or other woodland creatures. It's not only a fun seek and find book, but a primer on how actual birders identify birds - with distinctive features, location of birds (on the ground, in a tree), etc. Back matter includes more information about birding and about the bird species seen in the book.

Borrowing Bunnies: A Surprising True Tale of Fostering Rabbits by Cynthia Lord, photographs by John Bald, illustrations by Hazel Mitchell (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2019). Could this book BE any more adorable? (Answer: impossible.) Newbery honor author Cynthia Lord here chronicles her adventures with fostering bunnies with super cute photographs and illustrations. When she took in Benjamin and Peggotty to foster them until they were ready for adoption, she got quite a surprise when Peggotty gave birth to four baby bunnies. This is a fun pet story that will really please animal lovers and educates readers about caring for bunnies and bunny behavior.

The Happy Book by Andy Rash (Viking, 2019). Camper (as in "Happy Camper") and Clam (as in "Happy as a") are best friends and they're happy. But when Clam bakes Camper a cake and Camper eats all of it without saving any for his friend, Clam gets sad and enters a new book. Instead of The Happy Book, Clam's spending some time in The Sad Book. And from there, the two friends experience a gamut of emotions as they work through their first fight. Not only is this book funny, but it respects the range of emotions that kids experience and how friends can work through those emotions to express their feelings when disagreements happen. Designed with cartoon dialog bubbles like a comic book, this book is fun for recreational reading, but it also passes along a positive message about the emotions we all experience.

Ho'onani: Hula Warrior by Heather Gale, illustrated by Mika Song (Tundra Books, 2019). Ho'onani doesn't feel entirely wahine (girl) or kane (boy), but somewhere in the middle. When her community announces that they are going to put on a traditional Hawaiian hula chant for kane, she feels drawn to audition, even though the chanters are traditionally boys. This is an empowering story bringing much needed representation to the page. Ho'onani is such a good chanter that she's chosen to lead the group. When her teachers warns her that some people might object to a wahine leading a group of kane, Ho'onani decides to do the show anyway. With her parents' support and her older sister's eventual coming around to it, this is a supportive story that features a nonbinary child in the starring role.''

Pluto Gets the Call by Adam Rex, illustrated by Laurie Keller (Beach Lane Books, 2019). Pluto LOVES being a planet, but when the call comes from Earth that he's no longer a planet, how can he go on? This fun and funny picture book not only pays homage to our favorite planet-that-was, but also introduces young readers to the solar system as Pluto takes a farewell tour and presents facts about each planet along the way. Hand this to fans of The Sun is Kind of a Big Deal or Laurie Keller's The Scrambled States of America for kids who enjoy learning but in a really fun, funny way.

Pokko and the Drum by Matthew Forsythe (Simon & Schuster, 2019). With gorgeous watercolor illustrations (what a color palette!) and a surprising, energetic and humorous story, this is a don't-miss picture book. When Pokko's drum gets to be too loud, her mother and father suggest that she play outside for a bit. She is soon joined by a posse of instrument-playing animals and a posse of music fans, all following Pokko, who is literally marching to the beat of her own drummer. I love the facial expressions on all the characters (how does Forsythe make a frog so expressive?).

Stormy: A Story About Finding a Forever Home by Guojing (Schwartz & Wade, 2019). This super sweet and evocative wordless picture book shows a stray dog and the woman who keeps visiting him, eventually giving him a home. Stormy is very afraid at first and won't let her come close, but she keeps trying, bringing a ball for them to play with. On one stormy night they are finally united and she brings him home. This is a great one for young dog lovers, but I can see strong parallels in human relationships, too, particularly in foster or adoptive situations.

Tiny Feet Between the Mountains by Hanna Cha (Simon & Schuster, 2019). Being little does not mean you can't do big things. Soe-In is a tiny person, but she finds ways to keep up with everyone in her village and pull her weight. When the sun disappears, village elders ask for a volunteer to investigate and Soe-In is the only one who raises her hand. When she discovers that the spirit tiger has accidentally swallowed the sun, she finds a way to help him and save her village with her creative critical thinking. This is a beautifully illustrated Korean tale starring a brave young girl who doesn't give up. I love that it shows different things Soe-In tries to save the tiger and when they don't work she doesn't give up but keeps thinking and trying new things. And the illustrations are just gorgeous.

What is a Refugee? by Elise Gravel (Schwartz & Wade, 2019). This kid-friendly introduction aimed at non-refugee children is a solid explanation of who refugees are and the situations that can cause people to become refugees (notably leaving out natural disaster, but otherwise touching on major causes). This is a good choice for explaining some of the situations kids might be hearing about in the news. Maybe my favorite part was the bit at the end in which the author asked a dozen or so refugee children to tell about themselves. It's obvious that refugee children are just children who have gone through something awful but are just trying to live their best lives.