Recently Read: Great Picture Books! (17)

Yes, another round-up of terrific books recently read! My three year old is zipping through the last few weeks of our library’s summer reading club program so there are even more books than usual surrounding us at home! It’s been the biggest joy discovering and reading new books with her (as well as rediscovering some older favourites). My daughter has been eagerly helping me place picture books on hold and picking up stacks of books from our library- a reader after my own heart!

 

Here are some of the recent highlights of the books I have recently read and would recommend (most all of these titles have been read aloud and enjoyed!). Let’s start off with Bridget Heos’s Stegothesaurus, vibrant illustrations by T.L. McBeth: this one has become a new bedtime favourite; funny, clever and sly all at once, about a word-loving stegosaurus- a stegothesaurus!- who runs into big (…massive …gargantuan!) trouble when he meets a duplicitous allosaurus. Next up: the incredibly beautiful and touching intergenerational story Drawn Together by by Minh Lê, with truly stunning, awe-inspiring artwork by Caldecott Medalist Dan Santat; Honey by David Ezra Stein, a warm, satisfying hug of a book featuring the sweet bear from Leaves; the marvelous and illuminating A Storytelling of Ravens by Kyle Lukoff, with art by Natalie Nelson, all about unexpected names of animal groups (hello, a smack of jellyfish!); the amazingly beautiful, rhapsodic and educational The Honeybee by Kirsten Hall, with art by Canadian favourite Isabelle Arsenault; Cate Berry and artist Charles Santoso bring major giggles and awesomeness to Penguin & Tiny Shrimp Don’t Do Bedtime!, which is a super fun and interactive read aloud; the almost-wordless Night Out* by Daniel Miyares, another glorious, atmospheric and imaginative picture book from the artist behind Float, this is a perfect read for those who enjoy the ambient work of Akiko Miyakoshi; Jacob Grant, author and artist behind the terrific Cat Knit returns with the adorable and sweetly funny Bear’s Scare; Crescent Moons and Painted Minarets: A Muslim Book of Shapes* by Hena Khan, illustrated by Mehrdokht Amini, a thoughtful and informative study of shapes; and last but not least, Little Robot Alone* by Newbery Medal winner Patricia MacLachlan and Emily MacLachlan Charest, art by Matt Phelan, a quiet and endearing story about one robot who perseveres in making and welcoming a new friend.

*I was gifted a copy of Night Out courtesy of Daniel Miyares through a giveaway; I received copies of Crescent Moons and Painted Minarets: A Muslim Book of Shapes and Little Robot Alone courtesy of Raincoast Books in exchange for honest reviews. All opinions and comments are my own. 

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Board Book Look: Titles from Xavier Deneux, Joyce Wan, Christopher Silas Neal & more!

A while back, I realized I had fallen rather behind on posting about board books! So, here’s a look at some the standout board books I have read and enjoyed over the last few months. Most all I have shared as read alouds with my littlest one, as well as with my three year old to pretty solid acclaim; some have already been featured on my Twitter feed! Some, such as the titles by Xavier Deneux, Joyce Wan, Molly Idle, Matthew Van Fleet, Janik Coat, Becky Davies and Gareth Lucas, or Yujin Shin are more interactive; these are innovative titles featuring pull tabs, fold out pages, fun tactile surfaces- standout ways to get kids involved in the reading process. Deneux’s books also feature grouped vocabulary; for example, in Little Critters, the words featured on the ‘spider’ and ‘fly’ page go from animal parts (legs, abdomen) to action verbs (weaving, spinning). Some, like the ones by Eric Carle and Lois Ehlert are, quite simply, beautiful, vital classics for learning and exploration that I was so happy to reread and rediscover. The board book titles by Christopher Silas Neal are knockouts, with very clever wordplay and concept learning (shapes and colours), all highlighting his unique illustrative style (my three year old was positively cackling while we read together). For Canadian loveliness, or unicorn joy, or an all-around delightful story, there are titles by Trish Madson and David W. Miles, Dana Simpson, and Sandra Boynton and George Booth, respectively. (Note: For double the unicorn awesomeness, pair My Magical Unicorn with Today I’ll Be a Unicorn!)

 

Here, George! by Sandra Boynton, illus. George Booth
The Very Hungry Caterpillar’s ABC by Eric Carle
Llamaphones by Janik Coat
Peekaboo Pals: A to Z by Becky Davies, art by Gareth Lucas*
TouchThinkLearn: Little Critters by Xavier Deneux*
TouchThinkLearn: Wild Animals by Xavier Deneux*
Planting a Rainbow by Lois Ehlert
Lick!: Mini Board Book by Matthew Van Fleet
Flora and the Ostrich: An Opposites Book by Molly Idle (Flora’s Board Books) by Molly Idle*
C Is for Canada: A Canuck ABC Primer by Trish Madson, illus. David W. Miles*
Animal Colors by Christopher Silas Neal
Animal Shapes by Christopher Silas Neal
My Magical Unicorn by Yujin Shin
Today I’ll Be a Unicorn by Dana Simpson
Count My Cupcakes 123 by Joyce Wan

*These titles were received courtesy of Raincoast Books in exchange for honest reviews. All opinions and comments are my own.

Recently Read: Great Children’s Non-Fiction!

Forgive me for sounding a bit like a broken record, but: my goodness, the world of children’s lit just keeps broadening and upping itself! Within the larger realm of children’s non-fiction, I have recently read some incredible biographies, as well the more traditional kind of non-fiction. Looking at the biographical books, the recent highlights include: Patricia Hruby Powell’s Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker, amazingly illustrated by Christian Robinson; a condensed look at the life of literary great Jane Austen called Ordinary, Extraordinary Jane Austen thoughtfully written by Deborah Hopkinson and beautifully illustrated by the prolific Canadian artist Qin Leng; Fiona Robinson’s Ada’s Ideas: The Story of Ada Lovelace, the World’s First Computer Programmer is a memorable, enlightening and wonderfully drawn done work; the stunningly told and drawn Cloth Lullaby: The Woven Life of Louise Bourgeois by Amy Novesky and Canadian award-winning artist Isabelle Arsenault; the utterly intriguing Joan Procter, Dragon Doctor: The Woman Who Loved Reptiles by Patricia Valdez with standout art by Felicita Sala; and last but not least, the brilliantly told and illustrated Counting on Katherine: How Katherine Johnson Saved Apollo 13 by Canadian author Helaine Becker, illustrated by Dow Phumiruk.

On the more traditional side of non-fiction we have: The Mushroom Fan Club by Canadian favourite Elise Gravel, a totally fun and informative look at kinds of mushrooms; Canadian Jan Thornill, who authored and illustrated the award-winning The Tragic Tale of the Great Auk (which is superb!) returns with fascinating and eye-opening The Triumphant Tale of the House Sparrow; the very cool and captivating What Makes a Monster?: Discovering the World’s Scariest Creatures by author and zoologist Jess Keating, with illustrations by David DeGrand; the delightful Other-Wordly: Words Both Strange and Lovely from Around the World by Yee-Lum Mak, with fantastic art by Kelsey Garrity-Riley*; a fun look at animal feet called I’ve Got Feet!: Fantastical Feet of the Animal World by Julie Murphy, with art by Hannah Tolson; and How Tall Was a T.rex?, a simple, bold, visually striking and awesome look at tyrannosaurus by Alison Limentani.

Happy reading!

*I received a copy of Other-Wordly: Words Both Lovely and Strange from Around the World courtesy of Raincoast Books in exchange for an honest review. All opinions and comments are my own.

Review: The Tiny Hero of Ferny Creek Library by Linda Bailey

Review: The Tiny Hero of Ferny Creek Library by Linda Bailey, art by Victoria Jamieson
Source: Hardcopy courtesy of Penguin Random House Canada/Tundra Books. Thank you!
Publication: June 19, 2018 by Tundra Books (paperback). First published 2017.
Book Description:

Eddie, a passionate reader and a shiny green bug, saves the school library in this funny, heartwarming tale that fans of Flora & Ulysses and Charlotte’s Web will love.

Eddie is a tiny green bug who loves to read and who lives behind the chalkboard in Mr. Wang’s fourth-grade classroom with his parents, his 53 brothers and sisters, and his Aunt Min. But when Aunt Min goes to the school library and never returns, Eddie leaves the comfort of his home for the first time and begins the dangerous trek through the elementary school. After dodging running sneakers, falling books, and terrifying spiders, Eddie reaches the library, where he finds Aunt Min stuck on a desk with two broken legs! To top it all off, there’s a substitute librarian who has terrible plans to close the library and turn it into a local testing center. No more books at all! Encouraged by the brave deeds done by small creatures like Stuart Little and Charlotte from Charlotte’s Web, Eddie comes up with a plan to save the library–a plan that requires all the courage one little bug can muster. Perfect for fans of Chris Grabenstein’s Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library and Lynne Rae Perkins’ Nuts to You. Featuring extensive black and white art from Newbery Honor Medalist and New York Times bestseller Victoria Jamieson as well as references to classic children’s literature sprinkled throughout.

Gazing into the room, he felt a jolt of recognition, even though he’d never been there before. Maybe it was the gentle hush of the air. Or the glorious, fusty smell of hundreds of books in one place. The paper. The ink. The stories. Oh, the stories! He stood there, breathing it in…

Award-winning Canadian author Linda Bailey (Stanley’s Little Sister, Carson Crosses Canada) and award-winning artist Victoria Jamieson (Roller Girl) come together to present the story of a determined, story-loving, bright green bug named Eddie in The Tiny Hero of Ferny Creek Library.

Eddie and his family live in a “crack behind a chalkboard” of Room 19 of Ferny Creek Elementary School; since the day his ancestors “had the bad luck to get scooped up one evening and dropped into a glass tank”, they have called Room 19 home. Eddie, however, unlike his many, many grub siblings and his Ma and Pa, has serious ambitions involving books and readings- ambitions inspired by his Aunt Min, a lover of storytelling, books, and the library. One day, Eddie overhears a conversation between his Ma and Pa regarding Aunt Min-who has gone missing somewhere in the school’s library. Eddie’s personal decision to take on the challenge of finding his aunt forever changes the course of his life, as well as the fate of Ferny Creek Library. Eddie faces a number of tremendous challenges (and adversaries) throughout his odyssey, including numerous Squishers, a spider, and a deadly mop and bucket belonging to the school cleaner. But the biggest threat to Eddie, Aunt Min, and their beloved library turns out to be a woman named Estelle Grisch, sister of the new school superintendent, and serious enemy to all things bookish and wonderful. As Eddie contemplates this new, seemingly unstoppable threat to all things dear to his heart, he and Aunt Min turn time and time again to the words and worlds of children’s literature for comfort, reassurance, and guidance. The way in which Eddie attempts to take on Ms. Grisch and in turn inspires the Squishers of Ferny Creek and beyond are wonderfully written; inspired and full of heart. Bailey’s storytelling is strong, clear and passionate; Jamieson’s clean, unfussy black-and-white illustrations are evenly distributed throughout the novel, rendering characters and scenes to great affect. Almost reading as a love letter to the magic of storytelling, libraries (and librarians!), The Tiny Hero of Ferny Creek Library is a sparkling and truly fortifying kind of read.

Any reader who has ever fallen in love with Charlotte and Wilbur, or other similar fictional favourites might adore the story and characters in The Tiny Hero of Ferny Creek Library. Eddie is a curious, fervent and genuinely brave protagonist to root for, with Ms. Grisch as the perfect villain and antidote to Eddie’s innate kindness. Those who enjoy the work of authors such as Kate DiCamillo, George Sheldon, Elise Broach, Kathi Appelt, E.B. White or Laurel Snyder (and really, any library lover or ardent read out there!), might especially appreciate Linda Bailey’s stirring and beautifully optimistic read.

I received a copy of this title courtesy of Penguin Random House Canada/Tundra Books in exchange for an honest review. All opinions and comments are my own.

Picture Book Review: Fox and Raccoon (Juniper Hollow) by Lesley-Anne Green

Review: Fox and Raccoon (Juniper Hollow) by Lesley-Anne Green
Source: Hardcopy courtesy of Penguin Random House Canada. Thank you!
Publication: June 19, 2018 by Tundra Books
Book Description:

The first in a new picture book series featuring sweet felted creatures and a little village you won’t soon forget!

Welcome to Juniper Hollow! Meet Fox and Raccoon. They are best friends. They live next door to each other, and they spend every day together. Except for today! Fox is so busy she doesn’t have time to play. But never fear — Raccoon is here to help! He mails letters, goes to the fruit stand, picks up some yarn and even buys some sugar. But Fox is STILL busy. Will she ever have time to stop and play with him? As it turns out, she has a surprise up her sleeve . . .

Lesley-Anne Green’s endearing felted animals and adorable detailed sets create a world that readers will want to come back to again and again.

Are you ready to explore an utterly darling picture book? Canadian textile artist Lesley-Anne Green‘s picture book debut, Fox and Raccoon, is the first in the promised Juniper Hollow series, featuring some of the sweetest felted animals (in a most adorable village) you have had the pleasure to meet.

Fox and Raccoon follows the easygoing adventures of neighbors and best friends Fox and Racoon. We learn that the two have “had their ups and downs and their downs and outs” but always work it out in the end as “that’s just what best friends do!”. Their days together are usually filled with playing, sometimes relaxing in the grass, but this one particular day is a bit different. When Raccoon goes over to see his friend, he finds Fox is rather swamped. Fox has envelopes to mail, ingredients to pick up, and crafting to get done. Raccoon is undaunted and decides to help out with each task as best he can. He is more than happy to help his friend as “four paws are better than two when it comes to doing chores”, and he figures that the faster the work gets done, the sooner he and Fox will get to play. Of course, readers might figure out that Fox doesn’t just have a lengthy list of things to do, but might instead have a happy surprise up her sleeve for her best friend. I do not wish to use the words ‘charming’ or ‘adorable’ to the point where I’ve rendered them meaningless, but I hope I can convey just how delightful and cozy Fox and Raccoon and the world of Juniper Hollow is. The story itself is simple and warmly told, and the art (felting and sets) adds another dimension to it all. The detail in everything: from the stitching on Raccoon’s overalls; to Fox’s apron, and her tiny whisk and mixing bowl; to a spread of Raccoon running while tangled in yarn; to the perfect details on the set pieces (houses, fields, trees, etc.). Marvelous- Lesley-Anne Green’s work is a find. I have been happily reading through and poring over the pages since it arrived, and there is so much to discover and appreciate in Fox and Raccoon.

What can I say but all-around enchanting and fun! Such a kindhearted, winsome and easy story about two best friends and their sweet adventures on their way to a surprise celebration among good friends. Readers (of all ages) who love felted characters featured in stories (like in Jack & Holman Wang‘s books, or Maggie Rudy‘s books), or stories by authors and artists such as Teagan White, Nancy Rose, Beatrix Potter, Kallie George, Stephanie Graegin, or Holly Hobbie might especially fall in love with this cozy and adorable new series. I look forward to more Juniper Hollow entries to come!

If you have a chance, do check out this video- part of the Tundra Illustrator Studio series- with Juniper Hollow creator and author Lesley-Anne Green. The felts and sets are just the sweetest. Extras: Here’s a link to a birthday activity kit!

I received a copy of this title courtesy of Penguin Random House Canada in exchange for an honest review. All opinions and comments are my own.

Picture Book Review: Sun Dog by Deborah Kerbel & Suzanne Del Rizzo

Review: Sun Dog by Deborah Kerbel, illus. Suzanne Del Rizzo
Source: Hardcopy courtesy of Pajama Press. Thank you!
Publication: May 25, 2018 (in Canada) by Pajama Press
Book Description:

From Suzanne Del Rizzo, award-winning illustrator of My Beautiful Birds, and author Deborah Kerbel comes a unique story about a brave sled dog puppy’s adventures under the Arctic Circle’s midnight sun

Juno and her boy live in a red house at the top of the world. One day Juno will be big and strong enough to help pull a sled across the tundra, but for now she is just a small puppy with a big-dog heart. Small puppies have to go to bed when their boys do, but Juno can’t sleep with the midnight sun shining out across the town. She slips outside to play. Returning to see a hungry polar bear sniffing around the open door, Juno has no time to be afraid. It’s time to find her voice, summon the big dog inside her, and save her beloved boy.

With Deborah Kerbel’s warm, expressive text, Sun Dog is a love letter to life in the Arctic Circle from the perspective of a sled dog pup. Suzanne Del Rizzo’s dimensional art in polymer clay and acrylic wash offers both an intimate romp with a young puppy and a sweeping celebration of the vast and beautiful tundra.

Juno might be little, but there’s a big dog inside of her. She know it because it comes out every evening after dinner.

Canadian author Deborah Kerbel and Canadian artist Suzanne Del Rizzo have teamed up for the recently released picture book Sun Dog. A story told from the perspective of a young puppy named Juno who lives with her much loved boy at “at the very top of the world” in the tundra, Sun Dog is at once a tale of love, adventure and bravery.

Image from Sun Dog via Pajama Press site

When we meet puppy Juno and her boy, we learn a few things about the playful, happy pup: she loves her boy, she loves to play, and she wants to become a sled dog one day. As the summer months set in, “for days, weeks, months, the sun never sets”, and Juno does not want to go to bed. While her boy tries to get Juno to settle and get some good sleep, we see Juno playing with a striped sock on her boy’s bed, “puppy legs…itching to play”. So Juno decides to sneak out of their red house and go on an adventure of her own. At the beginning of her adventure, Juno sees rabbits, seals and even narwhals tucked in their various beds, but then her escapade takes a turn. After a close call with a (rather fearsome!) snowy owl, Juno runs home only to see a prowling polar bear right by their house. While frightened, Juno thinks of her boy who might be in danger and summons all of her courage to stand up and protect her beloved boy. Kerbel’s writing is so fluid and measured; while so much activity happens over the course of the picture book, Kerbel’s writing is focused, utterly inviting, and perfectly action-packed (yet not frightening for younger readers) when the climactic action occurs. Del Rizzo’s clay and acrylic art is so meticulously detailed and dynamic (from larger scenery to the smallest particulars)- I am in awe. There is one spread in particular in Sun Dog featuring the story’s polar bear that is incredible- quite a work of art. (Side note: If you haven’t yet had a chance to read Del Rizzo’s award-winning My Beautiful Birds, I highly recommend). The combination of Kerbel’s storytelling and Del Rizzo’s art make for terrific reading, and I hope we get to see further collaborations from the duo.

 

Image from Sun Dog via Pajama Press site

Overall, what a gorgeous picture book! With a terrific combination of warmth, playfulness and love, and moments of excitement and danger that lead to a sunny ending, Sun Dog is sure to please readers and/or an audience of young and old.  With such appealing and vibrant art, and a beautifully written, well-paced story, Sun Dog would make for great read aloud material (for preschool ages and up), as well as for quiet reading and sharing. Dog lovers might especially adore this story of Juno and her boy, and the overarching devotion and protective bond that the two share with one another.

Bonus: Don’t miss the notes on the endpapers about a different kind of sun dog, and the midnight sun! 

I received a copy of this title courtesy of Pajama Press in exchange for an honest review. All opinions and comments are my own.

Picture Book Review: Alma and How She Got Her Name by Juana Martinez-Neal

Review: Alma and How She Got Her Name by Juana Martinez-Neal
Source: Hardcopy courtesy of Penguin Random House Canada. Thank you!
Publication: April 11, 2018 by Candlewick Press
Book Description:

If you ask her, Alma Sofia Esperanza José Pura Candela has way too many names: six! How did such a small person wind up with such a large name? Alma turns to Daddy for an answer and learns of Sofia, the grandmother who loved books and flowers; Esperanza, the great-grandmother who longed to travel; José, the grandfather who was an artist; and other namesakes, too. As she hears the story of her name, Alma starts to think it might be a perfect fit after all — and realizes that she will one day have her own story to tell. In her author-illustrator debut, Juana Martinez-Neal opens a treasure box of discovery for children who may be curious about their own origin stories or names.

 

Image from Alma and How She Got Her Name via Juana Martinez-Neal’s site

Juana Martinez-Neal makes her debut as both author and illustrator with the critically-lauded Alma and How She Got Her Name. Gorgeously illustrated, poignant, and starring an endearing protagonist, Martinez-Neal’s notable picture book is not to be missed.

When readers meet Alma Sofia Esperanza José Pura Candela, she is writing her name and requires two pieces of paper- taped together- to get her full name down! We learn that she considers her name to be “too long, if you asked her”. She approaches her dad and reiterates her stance that her name is just too long and that “it never fits”. Her dad responds by taking a photo album off of a shelf: “…Let me tell you the story of your name. Then you decide if it fits”. Beginning with the name Sofia, and ending with the name Alma, Alma and her dad take a look at a photograph of each namesake and speak in a brief and thoughtful fashion about each respective relative- whether personal notes about their interests, their beliefs, their crafts, etc. At each name, Alma thinks about how remarkable it is that some parts of her relatives’ personalities and passions are somehow reflected in her or even an intrinsic part of her own person! As one can imagine, the more Alma hears from her father about her family’s history, the more her consideration and awe about her namesakes blossoms, as does her own sense of self and the uniqueness of her story.

Image from Alma and How She Got Her Name via Candlewick Press

A picture book that packs meaning, nostalgia, and general loveliness within its pages, Juana Martinez-Neal’s Alma and How She Got Her Name is an all-around wonderful read- beautifully told, beautifully illustrated (I am just in love with the art)- that also offers inspiration for readers. I have been reading this book with my three year old and she not only enjoys hearing about Alma’s name, but also hearing the stories behind her own full name which has quite a bit of family history nestled within it! Due to its more concise text length, I could see Alma and How She Got Her Name being used with a smaller Kindergarten and up group (or really, with any group of children perhaps working on family trees, or studying their own family!). Be sure to read “A Note from Juana” at the end of the book; Martinez-Neal talks about her own name’s history, as well as offering some related prompts for writing or discussion!

I received a copy of this title courtesy of Penguin Random House Canada in exchange for an honest review. All opinions and comments are my own.

Recently Read: Great Picture Books! (16)

A look at some wonderful picture books that I have had the pleasure of reading lately! All are titles I have read and enjoyed and would recommend. Let’s start off with two funny books featuring bears: first up is Don’t Feed the Bear by Kathleen Doherty, illustrated by Chip Wass, a riotous story about an escalating battle of wit and words between a determined-to-get-food bear and an equally stubborn ranger (a bit of a loving nod to Yogi Bear and Disney’s Humphrey the Bear!); second up is Bear and Chicken by Jannie Ho, an adorably illustrated title that gently builds up tension between an anxious chicken and the hungry bear who rescues her from the cold (…this book would pair nicely with That Is Not A Good Idea! or The Doghouse!). Next is Red Sky at Night, from paper artist Elly MacKay, which looks at various weather sayings (e.g.red sky in the morning, sailors take warning) with beautiful, dreamlike accompanying pictorial representations. If you’d like to take a wonderfully sweet trip across Canada, may I recommend Linda Bailey and Kass Reich‘s terrifically told and illustrated Carson Crosses Canada, about a sparkling, funny dog and his equally sparkling and awesomely adventurous owner. Readers who love stories about invention and treehouses, be sure to check out Carter Higgins and Emily Hughes‘s glorious Everything You Need for a Treehouse, a book to inspire and to be pored over and read again and again. If you’re looking for a cat-centred jewel of a picture book with minimal text, try Isabelle Simler‘s marvelously illustrated Plume. Sophie Blackall’s latest title is Hello Lighthouse, a fascinating- and gloriously illustrated- detailed look inside a lighthouse and the life of its current keeper. Last but definitely not least we have I Walk with Vanessa: A Story about a Simple Act of Kindness by Kerascoët, a remarkable, necessary wordless picture book.

 

Picture Book Review: Julián Is a Mermaid by Jessica Love

Review: Julián Is a Mermaid by Jessica Love
Source: Hardcopy courtesy of Penguin Random House Canada. Thank you!
Publication: May 22, 2018 by Candlewick Press
Book Description:

In an exuberant picture book, a glimpse of costumed mermaids leaves one boy flooded with wonder and ready to dazzle the world.

While riding the subway home from the pool with his abuela one day, Julián notices three women spectacularly dressed up. Their hair billows in brilliant hues, their dresses end in fishtails, and their joy fills the train car. When Julián gets home, daydreaming of the magic he’s seen, all he can think about is dressing up just like the ladies in his own fabulous mermaid costume: a butter-yellow curtain for his tail, the fronds of a potted fern for his headdress. But what will Abuela think about the mess he makes — and even more importantly, what will she think about how Julián sees himself? Mesmerizing and full of heart, Jessica Love’s author-illustrator debut is a jubilant picture of self-love and a radiant celebration of individuality.

The picture book debut from author-illustrator Jessica Love, Julián is a Mermaid already has multiple starred reviews and critical praise to its name- from publications including The Horn Book and The New York Times Book Review. This picture book title had been on my must-read radar for a few months, after reading multiple rave comments from reviewers and bloggers on social media, and some sneak peaks- needless to say, I was eagerly anticipating this title. And readers, Julián is a Mermaid is a gorgeous, tender, outstanding reading experience.

Image from Julián Is a Mermaid by Jessica Love via SLJ

Jessica Love’s debut is about a young boy named Julián who absolutely loves everything about mermaids. On the subway with his abuela, a book about mermaids open in his lap, he sees three women who are stunningly, amazingly dressed as mermaids- from the tips of their colourful hair to the tails of their gowns. Julián then imagines himself taken under the sea, swept up in a rush of sea life, transforming into a mermaid. He later gets the opportunity to actually turn himself into a mermaid- emulating the real-life mermaids he sees around him- while Abuela goes to take a bath. With great ingenuity, Julián uses various objects around their place- a willowy curtain, plant fronds, and more- to slowly transform himself into a stunning, unforgettable mermaid. Our protagonist’s joy is sharply faded, though, as he wonders and worries what Abuela might say as she sees the mess he has made while bringing his mermaid dream to life. The author takes the story in a truly wonderful direction after a moment of decision hangs in the air: how Julián’s Abuela responds to seeing the mess, and seeing him as a mermaid is something that embraces and touches the core of the heart. (I don’t want to reveal the ending here as I loved being surprised by it, but if you’re curious to read more about the finale, take a read through this wonderfully detailed look in School Library Journal by Elizabeth Bird that talks more in-depth about possible readings of the ending). I have returned to reading and poring over Julián is a Mermaid countless times since my first read. An exploration and deep celebration of a young person’s character, imagination and uniqueness, as well as love and understanding, Julián is a Mermaid is an exceptional read. Whether read aloud, used during storytime, recommended to mermaid enthusiasts, or finding its way to readers of any age who might just need to have Julián’s story in their lives, Julián is a Mermaid should be read, shared, and loved.

Image from Julián Is a Mermaid by Jessica Love via SLJ

Overall, an incredible, radiant picture book. Jessica Love has done a tremendous job here with her debut: the illustrative work is stunning, so saturated and evocative and fluid, and the text is just light enough to let the art and beautiful story shine. I highly recommend taking a read of this title and spending time with Julián, Abuela, and his world. Be sure to take a look at the picture book’s page here, as you’ll be able to get a further inside look!

I received a copy of this title courtesy of Penguin Random House Canada in exchange for an honest review. All opinions and comments are my own.

Recently Read: Great Picture Books! (15)

A look at some wonderful picture books that I have had the pleasure of reading lately! All are titles I have read and enjoyed. On this installment of Recently Read, we have a few titles that my three year old has requested multiple read alouds of including Nobody’s Duck from Mary Sullivan, which is a totally entertaining, witty and sweet story. Sullivan has authored and illustrated numerous wonderfully funny titles including Treat and Ball. Nobody’s Duck is great- visual gags and kookiness abound. My daughter, after our first read aloud said- (while giggling)- ‘That was really funny!’ Fans of Ame Dyckman, Jan Thomas and Keith Graves might like this one! Next we have Steve Antony‘s Unplugged, about an adorable robot named Blip who, after a blackout, finds herself unplugged- literally and figuratively. Unplugged is another one my daughter loves having read to her. The title is strong on the message about making sure we all unplug and be with friends, and find our own adventures away from screens- but, honestly, it is a timely point and the text is so genuine and wonderfully illustrated. Unplugged would pair nicely with Matthew Cordell‘s hello! hello!. Other great picture book picks include: Yellow Kayak, a visually arresting, melodic, rhyming title from Nina Laden with artwork by Melissa Castrillón; Jessixa Bagley and Aaron Bagley‘s charming and heartening Vincent Comes Home; All the Animals Where I Live, by Philip C. Stead, uncommonly told and structured, but what a wondrous treat; and the utterly heartwarming and surprising The Unexpected Love Story of Alfred Fiddleduckling – another fantastic and unusual title from Timothy Basil Ering.