Another entry of wonderful picture books for this series! As I noted in the previous Great Picture Books post, so much time at home has had some benefits, one of which has been going through my shelves of books for review. I have, thanks to the generous folks at Penguin Random House Canada, a number of lovely picture books that I have been reading through- some of which have rather sadly been waiting on my shelves for attention. So please join me in taking a look at these great reads that deserve time in the spotlight!
Let’s start off with the beautiful and heartfelt My Grandma and Me by Mina Javaherbin and Lindsey Yankey, a loving, richly descriptive autobiographical story of the deep bond and love young Mina has for her grandma. While growing up in Iran, Mina does just about everything with her grandma: cooking, praying, sweeping, telling stories, watching her grandma sew her own chadors, and even fasting together during Ramadan when Mina is a bit older. Javaherbin’s storytelling is so affecting; a detailed and personal story yet one that will likely be readily felt by anyone who has a grandmother they love or have loved and treasured. Yankey’s illustrations are beautifully ornate yet soft, drawing readers in to Mina’s story from the opening. Speaking as a reader, My Grandma and Me has brought me so much joy and happy remembrance of my own grandmothers who I was very lucky to have known and loved. Up next is the picture book A New Home, wonderfully written and illustrated by Tania de Regil. A story told in one shared voice from the perspective of two children- a young boy moving from New York City to Mexico City, and a young girl moving from Mexico City to New York City- A New Home takes readers on one beautifully fluid journey of the shared thoughts, wonders, and fears both children have as they prepare for their big moves. As both children let readers in on what they worry about, we are able to see the viewpoints of either child in their respective cities. In the juxtaposition between the children’s experiences- and what they will miss- about New York City and Mexico City, readers can see just how amazing it is that experiences can be so distinct yet somehow so comfortingly similar! Tania del Regio’s picture book is altogether terrific, with an especially lovely, happy, pitch-perfect surprise of an ending. Let’s now turn our attention to Just Because by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault. A young child sits upright in their bed, tucked in, lights turned off, and asks their parent in the doorway: “Why is the ocean blue?”. Oof. That is a rather big question to be asking at nighttime, isn’t it! How would one even begin to ans- “Every night, when you go to sleep, the fish take out guitars [and] sing sad songs and cry blue tears.”. Amazing!! Fascinating!!! I bet nobody knew that! If you think the child’s dad is going to be confounded by questions such as “What is the rain?” or “What are black holes”, then think again. I love how extraordinary and unexpected (yet somehow also flawless!) the ‘answers’ given are (and I do think I need to test them out with my own little ones!). The sometimes succinct, always funny and bold answers (Barnett is a consistently fantastic storyteller) make for stunning illustrative spreads by Isabelle Arsenault, and culminate in an especially divine ending. A glorious read that I have enjoyed many times over, Just Because is definitely one for trying out a storytime- perhaps especially with school-aged children who might (or might not?) take issue with some of answers given…And last but not least, if you are in the mood for some bright and sweet animal-centered picture books, here are two options! Neon Leon by Jane Clarke and Britta Teckentrup is an interactive, chatty and vibrant tale of a beautifully bright, bright orange chameleon who unfortunately has trouble with camouflaging, and thus feels very much like an outcast with the other chameleons. While the core of the story about feeling out of place is one readers may be familiar with, the kindness in Clarke’s storytelling, the interactive element, and Teckentrup unmissable artwork make Neon Leon a win. Ali Pye’s Copy Cat is a seriously adorable picture book about two feline friends who have a tiff over one always copying the other. A book that gently explores making new friends, making amends with old friends, and learning to do things on your own, Copy Cat is perfect reading for the cat and kitten lovers out there, or those looking for a charming picture book about friendship. Happy reading, everyone!
I received copies of these titles courtesy of Penguin Random House Canada in exchange for honest reviews. All opinions and comments are my own. Titles have been published and are currently available.