Jenny's Library

Posts Tagged ‘holiday

cover image for In My ForestIn My Forest by Sara Gillingham

designed by Sara Gillingham

illustrated by Lorena Siminovich

The deer finger puppet in the center, and the over widening cut-outs around the deer, are what first catch little ones’ attention. (And mine, I must admit.) But Gillingham and Siminovich have managed to create a book that is much more than just that.  The text is simple and straightforward, but never awkward, and the illustrations are full of texture and interest, yet soft and sweet.  Most notable is the sense of place that Gillingham has managed to create simply by emphasizing the location of the deer as being in the forest, in winter, and combining that with the puppets and cut-outs.

Highly recommended.

cover image for Bringing in the New YearBringing in the New Year by Grace Lin

A young girl and her family prepare to celebrate the New Year.

What makes this book remarkable is all the ways in which it isn’t – all the ways that it treats celebrating the Lunar New Year as important and special, but also just as normal or typical as any Western holiday.  There’s no introductory explanation of who this family is or where they live or when the Lunar New year is in relation to the Western calendar.  It’s simply a listing of all the things that make this holiday special.  Just as one might find in a typical (US) book about Christmas or Thanksgiving.  By centering the experience of the family in the book, rather than the experiences of others, Lin fosters connection and recognition rather than distance and detachment.

Lin’s brightly colored illustrations fit the celebratory tone of the story.  They also help to explain and define terms and actions that might be unfamiliar to some readers – without requiring awkward pauses that would interrupt the flow of the story, or a scholarly tone that might depersonalize the festivities.

Highly recommended.

cover image for Baby Loves Winter!Baby Loves Winter! by Karen Katz

“It’s winter! What will Baby see?”

All kinds of wintry things, underneath large flaps.  Good book, and large sized flaps are the best, but there’s nothing super memorable here, and I’m getting a little annoyed with the fact that, in this particular series by Katz, “Baby” is always white.

Recommended, with reservations.

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cover image for Diego Rivera: His World and OursDiego Rivera: His World and Ours by Duncan Tonatiuh

Born in Mexico, Diego Rivera traveled to far off places, like Madrid and Paris, to learn to paint.  But it was back home in Mexico where he made his most celebrated paintings – murals that depicted the lives of the citizens of Mexico.  Ordinary people as well as rulers, workers and warriors, all from both the world around him and from his country’s past.  If Rivera were alive today, what parts of your life do you think would be in his murals?

Diego Rivera does a wonderful job of explaining this artist’s work to children.  While it does include some biographical information in order to give context to his work, that isn’t the focus.  Instead, the book talks about Rivera’s artistic choices and the history and culture that his work brought attention to.  Tonatiuh’s own art is one of the highlight’s of the book; while clearly different from Rivera’s in style, the same influences of history and culture are evident, making it perfect for this topic.  The strong outlines, rich colors, consistent posing, and symmetry make the illustrations easy for children to read, while the depth of textures, the range of expressions, and variety of settings, actions, and clothing styles invite them to look deeper. Tonatiuh also ends the book by asking children to think about what kinds of murals Rivera might paint today, comparing and contrasting luchadores with Aztec warriors, students with factory workers, and malls with street vendors.*  In doing so he emphasizes the impact that Rivera’s work had on ordinary, everyday people, and encourages children to see their own lives through new eyes.

* Also science fiction movies with Aztec gods? I don’t know what that was about, and it came across as rather disrespectful to me, alas.

cover image for Hot Hot Roti for Dada-jiHot, Hot Roti for Dada-ji by F. Zia, illustrated by Ken Min

Aneel love having his grandparents around. Especially when Dada-ji tells him stories about the village he used to live in when he was a boy, and the hot, hot roti he would eat to build up his strength. How else could he wrestle water buffalo or make the earth rumble beneath him? Soon, both Aneel and Dada-ji are both hungry for some hot, hot roti.  But no one will help Aneel make any!  So he decides to make some himself.

There’s a lot to love in this book.  The writing is solid – it works well as a read-aloud and incorporates Hindu words and phrases without breaking the flow of the story or making it seem like we are getting a language lesson.  The plot is complicated for such a short book (with flashbacks and tales within tales and going back and forth between the real and the fantastic) but it’s never confusing or distracting.  The pictures match the story perfectly as well, and Min does a wonderful job of illustrating in such a way as to help younger readers distinguish between the here and now and the tall tales Aneel’s grandfather tells him.

Overall, it’s a sweet story about family, home, and spending time with loved ones.

cover image for The Christmas CoatThe Christmas Coat: Memories of My Sioux Childhood by Virginia Driving Hawk Sneve, illustrated by Ellen Beier

Winter has arrived, and Christmas is on it’s way.  Virginia longs for a new coat to keep her warm, one that fits just right.  Especially when she has to walk through  wind and rain to get to school.  As her community prepares for holidays, Virginia does her best to think of others, but that doesn’t stop her from longing for a coat that’s just right for her.

I’m going to take the fact that this book won an American Indian Youth Literature Award as further proof of just how few books include native american children in them, and how even fewer of those do so respectfully.  This is not a bad book, and would make a good addition to any Christmas display, but it’s not really an example of great children’s literature either.  What it does do, however, is show native american children in true and realistic settings, and that’s depressingly rare.  (Debbie Reese has a review of the book at American Indians in Children’s Literature, and I strongly recommend reading that for a better understanding of what the book does well.)

cover image for Hide and Seekcover image for Wiggle

Hide and Seek by Taro Gomi

A cute and different type of “can you spot the difference?” book.  Can you spot the candles on the giraffe? Very small children may need help finding the objects listed in the rhymes, but the visual repetition and adorable animals will delight children of all ages.

Wiggle! by Taro Gomi

With a little imagination, and Gomi’s delightful illustrations, your finger can help make a cat’s tail wiggle, a chameleon’s tongue stick out, or an elephant’s trunk swing.  Not all of the actions quite work (the crocodile flashes his fang?) but all are sure to amuse.

cover image for Balloons Over BroadwayBalloons Over Broadway by Melissa Sweet

Tony Sarg always loved puppets, even when he was a small boy.  When he grew up and moved to New York City, he made his living creating them for plays, musicals, and even store windows.  Then in 1924 Macy’s department store was so impressed with the window displays Sarg made that they asked him to help put on a holiday parade.  But Tony Sarg knew that for his marionettes to be seen by huge crowds standing on sidewalks, he would need to come up with something new, something BIG.

I’malways full of love for well written and illustrated non-fiction picture books, but this one is particularly wonderful.  Much has been made of the illustrations, and rightfully so.  Sweet’s use of mixed media is not only beautiful and appropriate to the topic, each style is put to the best use for illuminating different aspects of the story.  The text remains clear and understandable, but doesn’t shy away from evocative phrases like “They shimmied and swayed through the canyons of New York City” or unfamiliar words, such as “articulate.”  The scope of the book is perfect as well, it includes enough about Sarg’s childhood to help kids relate, but remains focused enough on a specific achievement to keep readers engaged.

cover image for Five Silly TurkeysCover image for Pete the Cat: The First Thanksgiving

Five Silly Turkeys by Salina Yoon

Babies and toddlers are sure to love the shiny, crinkly feathers that stick out from each page, but there’s nothing particularly remarkable about the rhymes or illustrations inside.

Pete the Cat: The First Thanksgiving by Kimberly and James Dean

Like a lot of cheap paperback spin-offs of popular picture book series, the quality of this title doesn’t quite match the original books. While the illustrator is the same, the authors are not, and it shows.  It’s also a fairly typical holiday book, and repeats all of the same myths about Thanksgiving.

cover image for A Big Guy Took My BallA Big Guy Took My Ball by Mo Willems

Piggie lucks out when he finds a ball to play with, until a big guy comes along and takes it from her!  It’s not fair – and Gerald isn’t going to stand for it.

Twists aren’t exactly expected in easy readers, seeing as they’re both rather short and meant for five to seven year olds.  But Willems manages to keep coming up with them anyway.  The jokes too, of course, Piggie and Elephant are as hilarious here as they always are. Best of all, though, neither the jokes nor the twists are the kind that rely on making other people the punchline – nor are the “lessons” imparted the kind that are full of saccharine and false promises.  Willems’ Piggie and Elephant books are simply funny and brilliant, and this one is no exception.

cover image for I'm A FrogI’m a Frog by Mo Willems

Ribbit! Piggie has turned into a frog! Gerald is shocked and amazed…and more than a little worried – will he turn into one too?

It’s the expressions on Piggie and Gerald’s faces, their movement and body language, that really make these books – this one in particular.  This is definitely one of the better Elephant and Piggie books, which is saying a lot, considering there isn’t a bad one in the bunch.

cover image for Click, Clack, Boo!Click, Clack, Boo! by Doreen Cronin, illustrations by Betsy Lewin

Farmer Brown does not like Halloween.  Instead of passing out candy himself, he turns out the lights and leaves the candy at the door.  But Farmer Brown can’t ignore the crunch crunch crunching or the creak creak creaking or the tap tap tapping.  What surprises lurk inside Farmer Brown’s barn?

This companion book to Cronin and Lewis’ award winning Click, Clack, Moo doesn’t quite capture the magic of the original book, but it’s clever and entertaining.  The repetition and onomatopoeia will appeal to it’s intended audience.  It should make a nice addition to families’ and libraries’ Halloween collections.

10 of my favorite picture books for Thanksgiving, in no particular order.

cover image for Pilgrims of Plymouthcover image for 1621: A New Look at Thanksgivingcover image for Shrinking Days, Frosty Nights

Pilgrims of Plymouth by Susan E. Goodman

1621: A New Look at Thanksgiving by Catherine O’Neill Grace and Marge Bruchac

Shrinking Days, Frosty Nights: Poems About Fall by Laura Purdie Salas

thanksgiving+2cover image for 'Twas the Night Before Thanksgiving

Thank You, Sarah by Laurie Halse Anderson, illustrated by Matt Faulkner

Twas the Night Before Thanksgiving by Dav Pilkey

cover image for This First Thanksgiving Daycover image for Over the Rivercover image for Thanks for Thanksgiving

This First Thanksgiving Day by Laura Krauss Melmed, illustrated by Mark Buehner

Over the River: A Turkey’s Tale by Derek Anderson

Thanks for Thanksgiving by Julie Markes, illustrated by Doris Barrette

cover image for Balloons Over Broadwaycover image for The Apple Pie That Papa Baked

Balloons Over Broadway by Melissa Sweet

The Apple Pie That Papa Baked by Lauren Thompson, illustrated by Jonathon Bean

cover image for Jump, Frog, Jump!Jump Frog Jump by Robert Kalan

Fish, snakes, and mischievous children all want to catch the frog.  Jump, frog, jump!

The text for this book is just brilliant; it manages to use both pattern sentences and be a cumulative story.  However, the illustrations, while readable, leave much to be desired.

cover image for Good Night, GorillaGood Night, Gorilla by Peggy Rathman

A zookeeper makes one last round through the zoo, saying saying good night to all the animals as he goes.  But watch out! The gorilla has a surprise for him.

This is such a fantastic story for preschoolers.  It’s not just that the jokes are obvious  enough even for four year olds – although that helps – it’s also because the repetition and engaging humor invites young children to try to predict what happens next.  Foreshadowing for pre-k!

Also, it’s just a tiny bit hilarious, particularly everyone’s expressions.

cover image for Ref-Eyed Tree FrogRed Eyed Tree Frog written by Joy Cowley, photographs by Nic Bishop

When the sun sets and other animals animals go to sleep, the red-eyed tree frog is just waking up and ready for breakfast.  But watch out, frog, or you might become someone else’s meal!

The detailed and close-up photographs are clearly what make this book, but the text is rather nice for a non-fiction picture book.  It’s not quite as clever as National Geographic’s Picture the Season’s series, but there is an actual story here and the sentences flow well enough to be read aloud to younger children.

cover image for Creature CountCreature Count by Brenda Huante, illustrations by Vincent Nguyen

Huante reworks the classic counting song, Over in the Meadow, to tell the story of a different kind of forest – one filled with dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures.

Ngyuyen’s animals are nicely done, but the backgrounds are flat, making the creatures feel pasted onto the page instead of part of their environment.  Still, Huante’s rhymes will keep you turning the page and humming along.

How Do You Feel? by Anthony Brownecover image for How Do You Feel?

Do you feel bored? Lonely? Happy? Silly? Or maybe you’re feeling sleepy.

I’m not a huge fan of Anthony Browne’s books to begin with, and quite frankly this little monkey is creepy.  It’s not an awful book, but I don’t recommend it, there are so many other better books about feelings to choose from.

cover image for A Kiss Like ThisA Kiss Like This by Mary Murphy

How does a mouse kiss? A fish? A giraffe? Like this!

Simple, but sweet. The illustrations are full of bold strokes, bright colors, and an overall childlike quality.  A good choice for valentine’s day – or just to let your little ones know how much you love them.

15 great books for Halloween, in no particular order:

cover image for Mouse's First Halloween cover image for Boo to Youcover image for Seed, Sprout, Pumpkin, Pie

Mouse First Halloween by Lauren Thompson, Illustrated by Buket Erdogan

Boo to You! by Lois Ehlert

Seed, Sprout, Pumpkin, Pie by Jill Esbaum

cover image for Ollie's Halloweencover image for Can You Make a Scary Face?cover image for Bunnicula

Ollie’s Halloween by Olivier Dunrea

Can You Make a Scary Face? by Jan Thomas

Bunnicula by James Howe

cover image for Creepy Carrots!cover image for Go Away Big Green Monstercover image for Leonardo, The Terrible Monstercover image for In a Dark, Dark Wood

Creepy Carrots! by Aaron Reynolds and Peter Brown

Go Away Big Green Monster by Ed Emberley

Leonardo, the Terrible Monster by Mo Willems

In a Dark, Dark Wood by David A. Carter

cover image for Pumpkin Eyecover image for Aaaarrgghh! Spider!cover image for Piggies in the Pumpkin Patch

Pumpkin Eye by Denise Fleming

Aaaarrgghh! Spider! by Lydia Monks

Piggies in the Pumpkin Patch by Mary Peterson

cover image for The Bone Dogcover image for Extreme Pumpkins

Bone Dog by Eric Rohmann

Extreme Pumpkins by Tom Nardone