Category Archives: picture books

Beyond words

drawn togetherSome years ago, I took my then infant son with me to visit a friend and her mother for coffee.  They were both from Bosnia, and my friend’s mom spoke some English, but did not get much of a chance to practice it.  We all chatted for a while, and then my son woke up, happy and ready for attention.  My friend’s mom picked him up and toured him around the house, happily describing everything to him in Bosnian.  Did he care?  No.  Was he suddenly in love with my friend’s mom?  Yes.  She tickled his belly.  She made faces.  She was a dream.  Little ones really don’t care what language you speak as long as you are speaking to them.  Being the center of attention works in any language.

Once you’re a little older, having a relationship with someone who doesn’t speak the same language can be a little more challenging until you find the ways you can communicate beyond words.  And that’s pretty much this book.

It is a perfect and wonderful book.  The words are perfect; the art is perfect.  And there is so much love in it.  What a joyful reminder of the special relationships grandparents can have with their grandchildren, no matter what lives they’ve left behind.

Drawn Together by Minh Lê and Dan Santat

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Rock your curtains, Julián

julian is a mermaidJulián loves mermaids.  And really, why wouldn’t you?  They look fabulous in their sparkly, colorful costumes.  Becoming a mermaid is a combination of imagination, what you can find around the house, and finding the right place to show off your awesomeness.


Julián is a Mermaid by Jessica Love

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Giant shells, moon jellies, good days, love

ocean-meets-sky-9781481470377_hrMemories of grandparents, memories of anyone we love – they’re all to be treasured.

Whether in our dreams or in every moment we walk through life, those we love remain with us if we keep them in our thoughts.

A beautiful book.

Ocean Meets Sky by the Fan Brothers

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Someone needs a nap

penguin and tiny shrimpNo, no, definitely no.  There will be no duckies and baths and comfy pillows here.  Penguin and Tiny Shrimp are on a mission to stay away, and yes, it will involve fireworks, running through the Serengeti and a Uni-hippo.  Eventually, though, we will all be yawning, which is exactly as it should be.

Penguin and Tiny Shrimp Don’t Do Bedtime! by Cate Berry and Charles Santoso

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Sparkly wings & a yellow coat to hide them

perfectly normanNorman is wonderfully normal until the day wings pop out of his back.  They are awesome wings: colorful, useful for speeding through the air, definitely unusual.

So Norman hides them beneath his yellow coat with a hood, passing through his days pretending to be normal – if that’s possible when you’re always wearing a yellow coat with a hood.  He doesn’t want his parents to realize he’s not the same Norman anymore.  Sigh.  So much light hidden under a yellow coat.

Then, one day he realizes there are other people wearing coats.  Are they maybe hiding something, too?  Something wonderful?  Something amazing?

Don’t hide your awesome, kids.  It might not be “normal” to everyone, but it’s perfect if it’s you.

Perfectly Norman by Tom Percival

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A walk through the woods takes imagination in a new direction

house that once wasA house with a past—can you imagine what that might be?

Was it happy and full of life?

Is it just waiting for its former occupants to return?

There isn’t much to add, except that Lane Smith’s art is always worth a look and a second thought.  It’s both detailed and blurry, all in exactly the right spots.

a house that once was by Julie Fogliano and Lane Smith

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Sweetness, light, Audrey Hepburn

for-audrey-with-love-9780735843141_lgThis probably never entered the mind of Philip Hopman, but this is a picture book that Frank from Julia Claiborne Johnson’s Be Frank with Me would love.  (And if you’ve missed that novel, please find it and put it in your stack for summer reading immediately.)

I have no idea how creating a picture book like this seemed like an excellent financial decision to a publisher.  Maybe it could sneak into Common Core nonfiction stuff for younger kids?  It’s a wonderful story of friendship and growing up into the person you most want to be.  It’s really only that Audrey Hepburn and Hubert de Givenchy’s relationship was so long ago and part of a time and place very unfamiliar to children today that made me wonder who its target audience was.  Maybe fashion-loving kids?  Maybe Frank?  Maybe me?

Who knows?  Who cares?  Just read and enjoy.

For Audrey with Love by Philip Hopman

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Love, love, science, science

There is so much to be sad about today and, seemingly, every day.  The moments of light and silliness are so quickly overshadowed by politics and just plain meanness.  People are unsettled.  Animals are struggling to survive.

Although they seem to spring from two completely different ideas, these books are a nice pair to read when you are feeling overwhelmed by it all.  Look at how science connects us all!  Look at the love in the world!  It’s a place to start, anyway, and a way to talk with kids about our roles and choices in this battered world.  Can we change it all?  Maybe not.  But we aren’t powerless, either.  Be strong, brothers and sisters.  Look forward.  Persist.

Fur, Feather, Fin: all of us are kin by Diane Lang and Stephanie Laberis

All of Us by Carin Berger

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A kind act can be the start of a new story

i walk with vanessaThat mean kid who teases Vanessa?  He can ruin her day, but if someone is paying attention, he’ll find out pretty soon that a whole army of kids can and will support her, and then teasing her won’t look like such a good idea.

I’ve spent a lot of time over the past few decades talking about bullying.  Highlighting how one person can make a difference by standing up and supporting another person – being kind – is such an important thing in this ugly world of name-calling and anger.   Standing up for yourself is vital, too, but bystanders can change the whole dynamic in an instant, going from fear and sadness to joy and happiness.

This one’s wordless, so you can tell your own story no matter how old you are.

I Walk with Vanessa: a story about a simple act of kindness by Kerascoët

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One word, many emotions

dudeTry to imagine that you want to tell a story using just one word.  There are highs.  There are lows.  There is excitement and fear and joy.  Then imagine that word is “dude.”

This one is great for talking with kids about expression and what a difference the sound of a word makes when you read it and hear it, and is also a nice way to talk about the importance of punctuation.

Note the “word by Aaron Reynolds” at the top of the cover.  The revision process must have been awful for him.  Almost wordless.  Pretty wonderful.

Dude!  by Aaron Reynolds and Dan Santat

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