Picture Book Reviews: A Perfect Day by Lane Smith & Noisy Night by Mac Barnett and Brian Biggs

9781626725362Review: A Perfect Day by Lane Smith
Source: ARC courtesy of Raincoast Books. Thank you!
Publication: February 14, 2017 by Roaring Brook Press
Book Description:

Today is a perfect day for Cat, Dog, Chickadee, and Squirrel.

Cat is lounging among the daffodils. Dog is sitting in the wading pool, deep in the cool water. Chickadee is eating fresh seed from the birdfeeder. Squirrel is munching on his very own corncob. Today is a perfect day in Bert’s backyard.

Until Bear comes along, that is. Bear crushes the daffodils, drinks the pool water, and happily gobbles up the birdseed and corncob.

Today was a perfect day for Cat, Dog, Chickadee, and Squirrel. Now, it’s just a perfect day for Bear.

Just look at happy Bear on the cover! Sniffing beautiful flowers, lounging on the grass and enjoying the sunshine- what could be wrong?! In bestselling and award-winning Lane Smith’s funny and terrifically timed A Perfect Day, readers get a look at multiple animals’ perspectives of what makes for their idea of a perfect day.

A Perfect Day starts off with Cat enjoying some colourful flowers and Dog enjoying the feel of cool water, followed by a few other adorable animals having their own ultimate day. Where some authors/illustrators might veer- or perhaps stay- on a straight line of the darling and sweet, Smith takes a wonderful and quiet dive off to the comical and unexpected- all the while maintaining major levels of adorable. As we get to little Squirrel enjoying some corn, readers have, up to that point, only seen that all animals have been enjoying a perfect day…but then- surprise!- in trundles big, lumbering, impervious Bear, making a grand mess of things. And while effectively wrecking everyone’s flawless day, Bear ends up (happily) making his own day of perfection.

Overall, A Perfect Day is a delight, begging for multiple readings and closer inspections of Lane Smith’s illustrations. A relatively simple story, light on text, A Perfect Day makes great use of repeated words and phrasing, and sets itself apart with its comical twist in the introduction of Bear. This story could work brilliantly as a read aloud for toddlers/preschoolers (I hope to try it out soon!), especially if given the right intonation and animated stress on certain words. Smith’s mixed-media illustrations are lively; detailed yet broad at the same time, and though distinctive (as is all of Smith’s beautiful art), his work is easily approachable for all ages to enjoy.

9781596439672Review: Noisy Night by Mac Barnett, illus. Brian Biggs
Source: ARC courtesy of Raincoast Books. Thank you!
Publication: March 7, 2017 by Roaring Brook Press
Book Description:

It’s a noisy night in this city building! The residents of each floor can hear their neighbors above them, and are wondering what’s going on above their heads. Climb floor by floor and page by page to find out whose singing, dancing, cheering, and cooing are keeping a grumpy old man awake.

With innovative split-level spreads that offer the feeling of climbing an apartment building floor by floor, this clever and colorful collaboration between New York Times -bestselling author Mac Barnett and gifted illustrator Brian Biggs offers an irresistible investigation of one noisy night.

I love a good, boisterous book for reading aloud and Noisy Night, from award-winners Mac Barnett and Brian Biggs, certainly delivers on multiple fronts. A rambunctious story centred around figuring out the various- and unexpected!- noises going on in an apartment building, readers are treated to one wacky surprise after another.

Noisy Night opens with a quiet scene of a young boy fast asleep in his bed. The lights are off, the scene is washed in blues and grays and then…suddenly, the lights are on and something or someone has woken up the young boy! As the young boy asks what is making the ‘la la la’ noise above his bed in the apartment above, readers are treated to a reveal on the next page, followed by the next apartment resident asking what is going on above their own head. Noisy Night follows a straightforward pattern, allowing readers to easily get into the rhythm of the ask and answer. If performed as a read aloud, kids might really get a kick out of trying to guess who or what could be making noises- especially as the reveals get a little bit kooky as we get higher and higher up the apartment!

Overall, Barnett and Biggs have crafted a genuinely vibrant, livelier than lively story here. As with Lane Smith’s A Perfect Day, the story format and plot in Noisy Night is arguably simple and accessible. And as with A Perfect Day, author and illustrator give that something extra to the story to make it memorable. In Noisy Night, it is the particular details of Barnett’s flare for comedic language and approach to sounds, in combination with Biggs’ unmistakable vivid art that gives this story that extra pizzazz to make it shine. I have already had the pleasure of reading this story aloud to my daughter multiple times and she loves the artwork and making the variety of funny noises along with me! Mark Noisy Night as a must-read picture book for a funny (and booming!) storytime or read aloud.

I received copies of these titles courtesy of Raincoast Books in exchange for honest reviews. All opinions and comments are my own.

Must Read Monday (61): New from Laurel Snyder, Ben Clanton, Jonathan Fenske & more!

Welcome to another edition of Must Read Monday!

This feature is where I spotlight older, recent, or upcoming releases I am looking forward to. The lists will include all genres I like to read, everything from picture books to comics, children’s lit to adult fiction!

This week, we’re talking picture books and a few early reader books! Some of my all-time favourite authors and illustrators are on the roster this week, including the following: Laurel Snyder, who has the first of a new readers series coming out called Charlie & Mouse (with illustrations by Emily Hughes!); Goldfish Ghost by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Lisa Brown, which looks awesomely strange and touching; and Triangle by the terrific duo of Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen. Plus a new Narwhal and Jelly, Jonathan Fenske’s latest- a follow-up to Barnacle is Bored!- and what looks to be a gorgeous and funny picture book called I Don’t Know What to Call My Cat.

I Don’t Know What to Call My Cat by Simon Philip, illus. Ella Bailey
Publication: January 12, 2017 by Simon & Schuster Children’s Books
Book Description:

Every cat needs a name. One name, one word, just a sound… It should be easy to choose one, right? WRONG!!! I just don’t know what to call my cat!

Choosing the right name for a new pet is very important! Find out just what this cat’s name turns out to be in this clever and witty story from an exciting debut author and talented young illustrator.

Triangle by Mac Barnett, illus. Jon Klassen
Expected publication: March 14, 2017 by Candlewick Press
Book Description:

Multi-award-winning, “New York Times “best-selling duo Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen conspire again on a slyly funny tale about some very sneaky shapes.

Meet Triangle. He is going to play a sneaky trick on his friend, Square. Or so Triangle thinks. . . . With this first tale in a new trilogy, partners in crime Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen upend the traditional concept book and approach it from a new angle. Visually stunning and full of wry humor, here is a perfectly paced treat that could come only from the minds of two of today s most irreverent and talented picture book creators.

Charlie & Mouse (Charlie & Mouse #1) by Laurel Snyder, illus. Emily Hughes
Expected publication: April 11, 2017 by Chronicle Books
Book Description:

Four hilarious stories, two inventive brothers, one irresistible book! Join Charlie and Mouse as they talk to lumps, take the neighborhood to a party, sell some rocks, and invent the bedtime banana. With imagination and humor, Laurel Snyder and Emily Hughes paint a lively picture of brotherhood that children will relish in a format perfect for children not quite ready for chapter books.

Plankton is Pushy by Jonathan Fenske
Expected publication: April 25, 2017 by Scholastic Press
Book Description:

In this funny, underwater picture book, Plankton says hello to Mussel, but Mussel doesn’t say anything back. Plankton tries everything to get quiet Mussel to talk. In fact, Plankton gets VERY pushy about it! Will Mussel ever open his mouth? Kids will relate to Plankton’s frustration with Mussel, and they will be anxious to see what happens when Mussel finally does open his mouth… Geisel Award Honoree Jonathan Fenske delivers a laugh-out-loud ocean story, and this is the perfect follow-up to Barnacle is Bored.

Goldfish Ghost by Lemony Snicket, illus. Lisa Brown
Expected publication: May 2, 2017 by Roaring Brook Press
Book Description:

Goldfish Ghost was born on the surface of the water in the bowl on a dresser in a boy’s room. The boy’s room was pleasant and familiar, but Goldfish Ghost wanted company, so he set out to find a friend. He floats over the neighborhood, past the pier, and let the breeze carry him into town where he discovers that not many people pay attention to goldfish ghosts.

Off he floats, searching for the perfect home and the perfect friend and then he hears a voice…

Super Narwhal and Jelly Jolt (Narwhal and Jelly) by Ben Clanton
Expected publication: May 2, 2017 by Tundra Books
Book Description:

Happy-go-lucky Narwhal and no-nonsense Jelly find their inner superheroes in three new under-the-sea adventures. In the first story, Narwhal reveals his superhero alter-ego and enlists Jelly to help him figure out what his superpower is. Next, Narwhal uses his superpower to help a friend find his way back home. In the third story, Jelly is feeling blue and Narwhal comes to …more

Top Ten Tuesday: Recently Added to My To-Be-Read Shelf

Welcome to Top Ten Tuesday! Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish. I have not been doing a great job (at all!) keeping up and participating, but I have been inspired this week! Now, this week is actually a freebie week, so I thought I’d focus on titles recently added to my to-be-read shelf!

A blend of picture books, mystery and fiction…In no particular order, here they are:

1. Little Fox in the Forest by Stephanie Graegin– a wordless picture book that I have been reading wonderful reviews about. Graegin’s illustrative work is lovely!

2. The Book of Mistakes by Corinna Luyken– described as Zoom meets Beautiful Oops!, I’m looking forward to seeing this gorgeous-looking picture book in person.

3. I Don’t Draw, I Color! by Adam Lehrhaupt, illus. Felicita Sala– regular readers of my picture book posts might know I just adore Lehrhaupt’s work! As soon as I saw this latest one come up on Goodreads, it went right to my must-read.

4. I Hate Everyone, Except You by Clinton Kelly. Any other folks here who watched TLC’s What Not to Wear? I’ve read and really enjoyed Kelly’s previously published fashion/entertainment books (love his humour and snark). I Hate Everyone, Except You is a little bit different- this one is actually a memoir- a collection of personal essays- and it sounds fantastic.

5. Tales for the Perfect Child by Florence Parry Heide, with illustrations by Sergio Ruzzier– a new edition of Parry Heide’s classic. I feel as though I have read this, many years ago, but I just cannot recall! In any event, I’m looking forward to rediscovering (or discovering!) this book, and can’t wait to see Ruzzier’s illustrations!

The next four are titles I added to my TBR immediately after reading terrific reviews for in Publisher’s Weekly:

6. The Outrun by Amy Liptrot– a fascinatingly described non-fiction title

7. Find Me by J.S. Monroe– a right-up-my-alley kind of thriller…

8. The Girl from Rawblood by Catriona Ward– a gothic horror/mystery!

9. Say Nothing by Brad Parks– another taut thriller that sounds just like something I’d be interested in!

10. Rabbit Cake by Annie Hartnett– an unmissable cover, intriguing description and narrator? Yes, please!

What’s on your Top Ten Tuesday this week?

Recently Read: Great Picture Books

Another spate of tremendous picture books I’ve recently read! We had a burst of school visits to my library in the last month or so- classes from preschool to grade two- and in preparation for the visits, I had the great opportunity to read a bunch of new (or new-to-me!) picture books and board books:

 

1 Big Salad: A Delicious Counting Book by Juana Medina *
Maybe Something Beautiful: How Art Transformed a Neighborhood by F. Isabel Campoy & Theresa Howell, illus. Rafael López *
Best in Snow by April Pulley Sayre *
Panda Pants by Jacqueline Davies, illus. Sydney Hanson *
Look, Look Again by Agnese Baruzzi (board book) *
Go! Go! Go! Stop! by Charise Mericle Harper *
Tiny Hamster Is a Giant Monster by Joel Jensen, Joseph Matsushima & Amy Matsushima *
Bunny’s Book Club by Annie Silvestro, illus. Tatjana Mai-Wyss
The Rooster Who Would Not Be Quiet! by Carmen Agra Deedy, illus. Eugene Yelchin
1 2 3 Dream by Kim Krans
I Heart You by Meg Fleming, illus. Sarah Jane Wright
Flyaway by Lesley Barnes

*star indicates that the picture book was used as a read aloud (and was a hit!) at one of my storytimes

Picture Book Review: The King of the Birds by Acree Graham Macam & Natalie Nelson

9781554988518_hr_1024x1024Review: The King of the Birds by Acree Graham Macam, illus. Natalie Nelson
Source: Hardcopy courtesy of Groundwood Books, House of Anansi Press. Thank you!
Publication: September 2016 by Groundwood Books
Book Description:

In this picture book, inspired by the life of Flannery O’Connor, a young fan of fowl brings home a peacock to be the king of her collection, but he refuses to show off his colorful tail. The girl goes to great lengths to encourage the peacock to display his plumage — she throws him a party, lets him play in the fig tree, feeds him flowers and stages a parade — all to no avail.

Then she finally stumbles on the perfect solution. When she introduces the queen of the birds — a peahen — to her collection, the peacock immediately displays his glorious shimmering tail.

This delightful story, full of humor and heart, celebrates the legacy of a great American writer. Includes an author’s note about Flannery O’Connor.

A picture book inspired by the life of celebrated author Flannery O’Connor? If you think the idea might sound…perhaps too grand or ambitious for a picture book, then please let me assure you that the team of author Acree Graham Macam and illustrator Natalie Nelson have done it! The duo has crafted something fascinating, funny and altogether idiosyncratic with their picture book The King of the Birds.

The story begins with a chicken who can ‘walk backwards and forwards’. A young girl named Flannery and her chicken become famous after being seen by a newspaperman…but after the excitement and fame dies down, Flannery decides she needs more birds. After buying every kind of bird imaginable, Flannery decides she needs even more. The ‘more’ ends of being a spectacularly proud, reticent peacock who refuses to show his tail, who grows increasingly lonely and squawks and screeches loudly (oh so loudly) into the night. As Flannery comes up with a royal solution to the King’s loneliness and lack of tail display, she ends up with even slightly more than she bargained for, making for a very funny (and wordless) ending. Nelson’s illustrations here are vibrant, eye-catching and stylishly atypical, while Macam’s writing of the story is a perfect blend of offbeat and wry yet totally accessible for a picture book audience.

Overall, The King of the Birds is a unique and wonderful picture book. Unusual and visually splendid, with an interesting story to boot, Macam and Nelson have designed and presented something special for their debut here. While a story inspired by the life of Flannery O’Connor, younger children will likely enjoy the story as a great and funny story about a young girl named Flannery and her surprising assortment of fowl. Older kids (and adults!) unfamiliar or less than familiar with O’Connor‘s life will likely find much of the story- and the author’s note- fascinating (and perhaps even an inspiration to read more about O’Connor’s life!). I have been loving the burst of non-fiction, and biographical picture books in children’s lit, and The King of the Birds is another fantastic title to add to the growing list. Any readers who have enjoyed titles such as The Iridescence of Birds, Swan, Henri’s Scissors, Radiant Child, or Viva Frida, might especially appreciate the singular beauty and quirkiness of The King of the Birds.

9781554988518_1_1024x1024

Image courtesy of House of Anansi website

I received a copy of this title courtesy of Groundwood Books, House of Anansi Press in exchange for an honest review. All opinions and comments are my own.

Picture Book Reviews: Things to Do & My World: A Book of First Words

9781452111247Things to Do by Elaine Magliaro, illus. Catia Chien
Source: Hardcopy courtesy of Raincoast Books. Thank you!
Expected publication: February 7, 2017 by Chronicle Books
Book Description:

With playful prose and vivid art, Things to Do brings to life the small moments and secret joys of a child’s day. There are wonders everywhere. In the sky and on the ground-blooming in a flower bed, dangling from a silken thread, buzzing through the summer air-waiting … waiting to be found. In this thoughtful and ingenious collection of poems, Elaine Magliaro, an elementary school teacher for more than three decades and a school librarian for three years, and illustrator Catia Chien provide a luminous glimpse of the ordinary wonders all around us.

“Things to do if you are a honeybee
Flit among flowers.
Sip nectar for hours.
Be yellow and fuzzy.
Stay busy.
Be buzzy.”

Things to Do, written by poet Elaine Magliaro and illustrated by Catia Chien (My Blue is Happy), is a lively verse-filled picture book about marvels- big and small- found in the world around us. With a young child and her canine companion as our guides, readers are taken into a world of poetry and wonder as we look at everything from the dawn to an acorn, the sky to an eraser.

Starting with waking up in the morning and considering the dawn and ending with a nighttime contemplation of the moon, child and pup traverse and explore the world around them and things various objects should do. Chien’s illustrations, rich and colourful yet soft and gauzy (and making such terrific use of perspective and angles) just perfectly compliment Magliaro’s sometimes rhyming, sometimes free, gorgeously lilting poems. Initially, I had wondered whether a consistent, repeated rhyming pattern would have made the flow of the story smoother. However, after some reflection and rereading of passages, I find that the variable nature of the poems to work very well here, as Magliaro alters tone and rhyme (as well as font size and style) to suit each object so wonderfully. As an example, the honeybee poem quoted above features shorter, to-the-point sentences that allow for a quicker reading- just as one might imagine honeybee might be! In contrast, the poetry for ‘Things to do if you are a snail’ uses ‘s’ words to great effect…drawing out sentences such as ‘slowly…slowly…’ and ‘slide along your trail of slime‘. I would argue that a more strict pattern of precise rhyming might not fit so well with the overall style and voice of the story!

In all, Things to Do is a beautiful meld of picture book and poetry. Readers who enjoy or are looking for something a little more contemplative and challenging, or those who enjoy work by authors such as Jon J. Muth, Joyce Sidman, Julie Fogliano, Helen Frost or Kate Coombs might especially adore this enchanting title.

 

9781627795302My World: A Book of First Words by Frann Preston-Gannon
Source: ARC courtesy of Raincoast Books. Thank you!
Expected publication: February 28, 2017 by Henry Holt and Co.
Book Description:

A beautiful and entertaining visual catalog for toddlers – including things that go, cute fruits and veggies, undersea creatures, and more!

There’s no end to the fun in finding and naming each object in these chockablock spreads! Beautiful birds, adorable mommy and baby animals, colorful clothing, musical instruments, and more fill each page, with objects labeled and grouped by theme. A fun, gorgeous visual dictionary for the very youngest of readers.

If you are not yet familiar with Frann Preston-Gannon’s work in children’s lit, I recommend checking out any one of her gorgeous, vibrant books! From the board book Deep Deep Sea to the adorable picture book Pepper & Poe and many more, Preston-Gannon’s artwork and style is totally singular and recognizable.

Here in My World: A Book of First Words, the author-illustrator approaches a multitude of objects grouped by themes (e.g. Birds, Plants, Prehistoric Creatures, Fruits and Vegetables) in a spectacularly bright and lively fashion. For example, in the ‘Plants’ spread, Preston-Gannon illustrates everything from cattails and bluebells to a Venus flytrap and a stout cactus with enigmatic eyes- comparable to the all-knowing eyes found on Jon Klassen’s animals. Each and every object presented in this engaging, educational and FUN read is drawn ebulliently- children (and adults!) will undoubtedly love to pore over the illustrations large and small as well as find joy in learning new words. My World contains a tremendous variety of words for a range of ages- from words like kittens, chicken and car to very cool and tricky dinosaur names like Diplodocus and Prenocephale!

Overall, My World is a delight. Picture books and board books on ‘first words’ can indeed become repetitive or same-y, but this book from Preston-Gannon is indeed a treat. Perfect for a wider range of ages, with fresh and vivacious illustrations that will likely delight toddlers, preschoolers and adults, My World is definitely one to check out and add to your collection!

I received copies of these titles courtesy of Raincoast Books in exchange for honest reviews. All opinions and comments are my own.

Picture Book Reviews: Samson in the Snow by Philip C. Stead & Tony by Ed Galing and Erin E. Stead

samson27414441Samson in the Snow by Philip C. Stead
Source: ARC courtesy of Raincoast Books. Thank you!
Publication: September 13, 2016 by Roaring Brook Press
Book Description:

One sunny day Samson, a large and friendly woolly mammoth, encounters a little red bird who is looking for yellow flowers for her mouse friend (whose favorite color is yellow). As she flies off with the flowers, Samson wonders what it must be like to have a friend. He wonders this for so long, in fact, that he falls asleep and wakes up to a world covered in snow. In the midst of a blizzard, Samson finds and shelters the little red bird and flower-loving mouse in a tender tale of kindness and unexpected friendship.

Philip C. Stead does picture books about friendship and kindness so well. From the award-winning and beloved A Sick Day for Amos McGee (illustrated by Erin. E. Stead) to A Home for Bird, Stead’s approach to the writing and illustrating of friendship is nothing short of splendid; always reading as unfeigned and sincere. Stead’s Samson in the Snow is another winning picture book: a quietly gorgeous and heart-warming story of one mammoth’s considered acts of compassion and kindness.

Looking after his dandelion patch on a sunny day, Samson is surprised by a tiny red bird. Searching for some yellow flowers to cheer up her friend, Samson helps the little bird select the most beautiful dandelions and off she flies to visit her friend. When sudden and angry snowfall blanket the ground and sky, Samson sets off, concerned about the little red bird. On his way through the deep and dangerous cold and snow, Samson helps and befriends a mouse who is also looking for someone. A miraculous discovery, aided by spotting some bright dandelions in the snow, leads to beautiful and moving reunion- and the start of new friendship. Stead’s work, as ever, is elegant and stirring, all the while tranquil- the kind of quietly powerful and moving picture book that I love deeply.

Any readers who have previously adored Philip C. Stead’s work- either as author or solo work as author/illustrator- will undoubtedly find much to appreciate and love here. The story holds much to explore, read and share in a quiet study or one-on-one read aloud, or for a shared read aloud with an older group. Readers who enjoy the work of authors and illustrators such as Pamela Zagarenski, Marla Frazee, Lane Smith, or David Ezra Stein might especially adore the restrained beauty of Samson in the Snow.

tony29102892Tony by Ed Galing, illus. Erin. E. Stead
Source: Hardcopy courtesy of Raincoast Books. Thank you!
Expected publication: February 7, 2017 by Roaring Brook Press
Book Description:

Tony was all white,
large, sturdy,
with wide gentle eyes
and a ton of love . . .

Follow this touching tale of a boy and his friendship with a horse, by the late poet Ed Galing and illustrated with remarkable tenderness by Caldecott-winning artist Erin Stead.

While Erin E. Stead’s award-winning work as illustrator is much-known to me- and much adored-, (the late) Ed Galing‘s work and poetry is something completely new. Their collaborative work in Tony, a picture book centred around a gorgeous white horse, is surprising, beautiful, and unique.

Reading through Tony, poring over Galing’s words and Erin E. Stead’s incredible drawings, I was faintly and happily reminded of the work of poet Robbie Burns…and of William Carlos Williams…the honest and arguably bare, uncluttered style of writing. Galing’s poetry here in Tony is just that: unfettered and uncomplicated. A relatively simple tale of a narrator’s love and admiration for a glorious, gentle white horse that pulls a dairy cart for a young driver named Tom, Tony is one picture book that could be missed at first glance. But do not miss this one for there is much to love and exclaim over! In particular, the remarkable illustrative work of Stead here. Stead’s work is breathtaking, giving texture, aura, and atmosphere to Galing’s words and, in fact, to Tony the horse. The careful colour palette is mostly lighter green/teals with some washes of yellow; the early morning setting of the story leads to the overall hushed and hazy feel of the story. The relatively simple nature of the poem’s focus, along with details of setting, suggest a story set in a bygone era…

Overall, what a surprise! If you’ve seen and experienced Erin E. Stead’s illustrative work before, then you already know you are in for a treat. Stead’s artwork combined with Galing’s poetry makes for a special and unexpectedly rich picture book. While on the face a simple story about a ‘large, sturdy’ horse, Tony is story that may beg for a read or two or more to sift and settle: an unadorned, wonderful, wholly felt tale that strums the senses. If my words here and enthusiasm haven’t compelled you yet, you can also read this radiant starred review of Tony here from Kirkus Reviews! You can check out the book’s page over on Macmillan to see a few pages of the picture book- well worth a look!

I received copies of these titles courtesy of Raincoast Books in exchange for honest reviews. All opinions and comments are my own.

Picture Book Review: Wolf in the Snow by Matthew Cordell

wolfinthesnow29102937Picture Book Review: Wolf in the Snow by Matthew Cordell
Source: ARC courtesy of Raincoast Books. Thank you!
Publication: January 3, 2017 by Feiwel & Friends
Book Description:

A girl is lost in a snowstorm. A wolf cub is lost, too. How will they find their way home?

Paintings rich with feeling tell this satisfying story of friendship and trust. Here is a book set on a wintry night that will spark imaginations and warm hearts, from Matthew Cordell, author of Trouble Gum and Another Brother.

Matthew Cordell‘s work in children’s literature is, to me, a constant source of joy and discovery. He is a picture book author/illustrator whose work I love recommending to kids and adults; there’s something slightly bonkers, usually funny and always meaningful in his story and drawing style. From his work in Another Brother (a personal favourite) to illustrations in the Justin Case series to Lost. Found., his work is truly excellent and little out of the box. Now, with Wolf in the Snow, an almost wordless picture book, his work as author and illustrator truly takes on another level of sublime.

The story begins as young girl waves bye-bye to her barking dog, waves bye-bye to her classmates and proceeds to get lost in a sudden and dangerous snowstorm. Running parallel to the young girl’s story is that of a young wolf pup who gets separated from his wolf pack in the same snowstorm. As the bundled-up girl struggles, sweats and ‘huff’ ‘huff’s her way through the snow, her path converges with that of the now-whining and scared wolf pup. Without giving away the entirety of the story here, I will say that the young girl shows tremendous tenacity, care and bravery in the face of obstacles, fear and exhaustion. At the climax, an incredible moment of kindness and recognition passes between child and wolf and wolf and human family, leading to a wonderfully stirring story. In their starred review of Wolf in the Snow, Kirkus writes that Cordell is able to, successfully, ‘capture many feelings’ through the almost wordless text by virtue of his expressive illustrations, elevating the story above and beyond another picture book about kindness. I would absolutely agree with this statement: the picture book is filled with evocative illustrations by way of facial cues- of wide, or red-rimmed, or tired eyes, of wolf gazes and stares- of physical movements including collapse, bodily exhaustion, drips of sweat, cold puffs of breath and more…Cordell tells so much, so effectively and deeply with his particular and unique illustrative style.

I hope we see Wolf in the Snow talk come around during Caldecott considerations! I for one, sometimes feel as though Cordell’s work is perhaps…well, not under-read nor under-appreciated, but I feel like it might really be his time to shine even more. Overall, I absolutely LOVE, love Wolf in the Snow– within the pages of this picture book is something luminous, aching, sweet and memorable for readers (and picture book aficionados) of all ages. Gorgeous!

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

Best of 2016: Picture Books (Part 2) & the Best of the Rest

The time has come, the Walrus said, to talk of…picture books!?!

Yes, picture books! This genre has been SO strong this year- whether the form of debuts, or published works from established authors and illustrators, I have been continuously surprised and delighted by my reading in this epic field. The titles on this list are ones that have either excelled as read alouds for my storytimes, ones that I have personally adored, or ones that I have feel have contributed something superb to the genre. Or perhaps all of the three factors combined!

You can check out Part 1 of my picks here.

In no particular order, here are my picks for Part 2:

 

You Belong Here by M.H. Clark, illus. Isabelle Arsenault
Everyone Is Yawning by Anita Bijsterbosch
This Is My Dollhouse by Giselle Potter
I’ll Wait, Mr. Panda by Steve Antony
My Dad Used to Be So Cool by Keith Negley

 

Penguin Problems by Jory John, illus. Lane Smith
Pug Meets Pig by Sue Lowell Gallion, illus. Joyce Wan
I Will Not Eat You by Adam Lehrhaupt, illus. Scott Magoon
There’s A Bear on My Chair by Ross Collins
Cat Knit by Jacob Grant

 

The Moon Inside by Sandra V. Feder, illus. Aimée Sicuro
First Snow by Bomi Park
Who What Where? by Oliver Tallec
Bunny Slopes by Claudia Rueda
If I Had a Gryphon by Vikki VanSickle, illus. Cale Atkinson

 

This Book Just Ate My Dog! by Richard Byrne
Wild by Emily Hughes
Dylan the Villain by K.G. Campbell
Mother Bruce by Ryan T. Higgins
One Day, the End.: Short, Very Short, Shorter-Than-Ever Stories by Rebecca Kai Dotlich, illus. Fred Koehler

 

Lost. Found. by Marsha Diane Arnold, illus. Matthew Cordell
Quackers by Liz Wong
Secret Tree Fort by Brianne Farley
Ideas Are All Around by Philip C. Stead
Have You Seen Elephant? by David Barrow

 

And last, but definitely not least, the best of the rest. This includes board books, children’s non-fiction and others:

 

We Sang You Home by Richard Van Camp, illus. Julie Flett
Hamsters on the Go by Kass Reich
This Is Not a Book by Jean Jullien
We All Count: A Book of Cree Numbers by Julie Flett

 

Gryphons Aren’t So Great by James Sturm, Alexis Frederick-Frost & Andrew Arnold
A Midsummer Night’s Dream: A BabyLit Fairies Primer by Jennifer Adams, illus. Alison Oliver
Miss Moon: Wise Words from a Dog Governess by Janet Hill
Out of the Woods by Rebecca Bond

 

Sometimes I Feel Like a Fox by Danielle Daniel
Sing a Season Song by Jane Yolen, illus. Lisel Jane Ashlock
Follow the Moon Home: A Tale of One Idea, Twenty Kids, and a Hundred Sea Turtles by Philippe Cousteau, Deborah Hopkinson, illus. Meilo So
The Blobfish Book by Jessica Olien

 

Note: Some titles appearing on this list may have been published in previous years; titles on this list are ones that I read in 2016. Some titles appearing on this list may also have been provided by publishers in exchange for honest reviews; this has no bearing on making this list. These are my personal selections.

Best of 2016: Picture Books (Part 1)

The time has come, the Walrus said, to talk of…picture books!?!

Yes, picture books! This genre has been SO strong this year- whether the form of debuts, or published works from established authors and illustrators, I have been continuously surprised and delighted by my reading in this epic field. The titles on this list are ones that have either excelled as read alouds for my storytimes, ones that I have personally adored, or ones that I have feel have contributed something superb to the genre. Or perhaps all of the three factors combined!

In no particular order, here are my picks:

They All Saw a Cat by Brendan Wenzel
Du Iz Tak? by Carson Ellis
The Liszts by Kyo Maclear, illus. Júlia Sardà
A Child of Books by Oliver Jeffers & Sam Winston
Wolf Camp by Andrea Zuill

 

Ooko by Esme Shapiro
Grumpy Pants by Claire Messer
Tokyo Digs a Garden by Jon-Erik Lappano, illus. Kellen Hatanaka
Thunder Boy Jr. by Sherman Alexie, illus. Yuyi Morales
The Night Gardener by Terry Fan & Eric Fan

 

A Family Is A Family Is A Family by Sara O’Leary, illus. Qin Leng
Before Morning by Joyce Sidman, illus. Beth Krommes
Henry & Leo by Pamela Zagarenski
We Found a Hat by Jon Klassen
Jill & Dragon by Lesley Barnes

 

The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles by Michelle Cuevas, illus. Erin. E. Stead
Bring Me a Rock! by Daniel Miyares
Dragonfly Kites by Tomson Highway, illus. Julie Flett
Barnacle is Bored by Jonathan Fenske
Before I Leave by Jessixa Bagley

 

The Wish Tree by Kyo Maclear, illus. Chris Turnham
The Sound of Silence by Katrina Goldsaito, illus. Julia Kuo
Friend or Foe? by John Sobol, illus. Dasha Tolstikova
Nobody Likes a Goblin by Ben Hatke
The Storybook Knight by Helen Docherty, illus. Thomas Docherty

Note: Some titles appearing on this list may have been published in previous years; titles on this list are ones that I read in 2016. Some titles appearing on this list may also have been provided by publishers in exchange for honest reviews; this has no bearing on making this list. These are my personal selections.