Picture Book Reviews: I Sang You Down from the Stars & The Sorry Life of Timothy Shmoe

Back to reviews with two fantastic picture books! Thanks to the lovely folks at Owlkids, I have the following books on the review docket: I Sang You Down from the Stars by Tasha Spillett-Sumner, illustrated by Michaela Goade and The Sorry Life of Timothy Shmoe by Stephanie Simpson McLellan, illustrated by Zoe Si. Happy reading to you all!

“I loved you before I met you/Before I held you in my arms/I sang you down from the stars.” I Sang You Down from the Stars, written by award-winning Cree and Trinidadian author/poet Tasha Spillett-Sumner, and illustrated by Caldecott winning Tlingit artist Michaela Goade, tells readers a gorgeously heartfelt story about a mother-to-be preparing for the arrival of her baby. Based on the “traditional understanding” by Indigenous peoples across the world as well as by Spillett-Sumner’s Nation, the Inniniwak, that ”babies choose their parents”, I Sang You Down from the Stars also features the “mindful preparations” of how a family and community welcome a baby into their world with the creation of a ”sacred bundle”. From the collection of an eagle plume, cedar and sage, to a handsewn star blanket and small river stone, the narrator of our story- the mom-to-be- brings readers along on a sensorial, enveloping, beautiful journey. Storytelling and artwork in I Sang You Down from the Stars are both exquisite; the collaboration of Spillet-Sumner’s poetic text and gentle repetitions, and Goade’s fluid lines, and stunning, appealingly personal illustrations are a win. Readers looking for an heartwarming, inviting parent-child (mother-child) story, or those looking to gift a new family with an exceedingly beautiful picture book, I Sang You Down from the Stars is a top pick. Extras: Be sure to read ”A Note from the Author” and ”A Note from the Illustrator” at the book’s end pages.

Written Stephanie Simpson McLellan and illustrated by Zoe Si (who is also a popular cartoonist!), The Sorry Life of Timothy Shmoe is a standout picture book presented in epistolary format. Told almost entirely through letters that a young boy named Timothy writes in apology after causing chaos to various family members (and the family cat), The Sorry Life of Timothy Shmoe is as raucous as it is kindhearted and comforting. Timothy Shmoe seems to have a lot of bad things happen around him. Or rather, there are often unfortunate things that happen to those in his immediate vicinity. But why? Is it pure bad luck, bad timing, or is it something else? We learn from the top of the story that Timothy isn’t a bad kid. Sometimes, though, impulses and emotions (and not the most positive kinds) get in Timothy’s way. For example, Timothy writes to his Aunt Gladys that he is sorry he said he didn’t like the carrot sweater she knit for him. Timothy was just telling the truth! How was he to know you don’t always tell the exact truth? In another instance, Timothy writes an apology to his sister Sarah for attempting to make a drawing of hers better. He just wanted to draw a large yellow bird for her tree, what was so wrong about that? Not all of Timothy’s letters go over well with their intended audience, and readers will see that Timothy’s sincerity wavers a bit. But when Timothy makes a big, big, BIG error in judgment, have things gone too far? Will his parents even still want him as their son? With Stephanie Simpson McLelland’s witty, wholly engaging writing, and the incredibly sprightly, active illustrations by Zoe Si that further bring Timothy to life, The Sorry Life of Timothy Shmoe is terrifically funny and thoughtful reading. Readers who love picture books by authors such as Jory John, Liz Climo, Debbie Ridpath Ohi or Ame Dyckman might especially adore this book.

I received copies of these titles courtesy of Owlkids in exchange for honest reviews. All opinions and comments are my own. Titles have been published and are currently available.

Author: michelle@fabbookreviews

Reference & Children's Librarian. Reader. Reviewer.

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