Olive Marshmallow by Katie Saunders

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Written and illustrated by Katie Saunders
(Little Bee Books; $16.99, Ages 3-6)



Meet Archie, the main character of this adorable new picture book, Olive Marshmallow by Katie Saunders, inspired by her actual experience when she was expecting her second child.


Interior artwork from Olive Marshmallow written and illustrated by Katie Saunders, Little Bee Books ©2015.


Archie has noticed something different at home. His mom is looking BIGGER. She shows him the ultrasound image, something I haven’t seen in other books, but was happy Saunders thought to include it.

“This is your baby sister growing in Mommy’s tummy,” she says.

Archie is going to be a big brother. Unlike most older siblings usually concerned about a new child stealing the show, this little lad only briefly wonders if he wants a baby sister because what he really likes are “cars, trains, and playing ninjas.” The only objection he seems to have about the changes afoot is all the pinkness that’s filling the house.

He is ABSOLUTELY sure that he doesn’t like fluffy, frilly, very pink things.


Interior artwork from Olive Marshmallow written and illustrated by Katie Saunders, Little Bee Books ©2015.

For a lot of parents, Archie may seem to be the ideal son, but that’s what’s so sweet about this simple picture book. Olive Marshmallow is actually a super story to share with kids about the imminent arrival of another family member because it’s completely positive, setting it apart from so many of the rivalry-themed books. While those books are very important, and do indeed serve a purpose for helping kids find the words for feelings they may not otherwise be able to articulate, it’s refreshing to read a more innocent approach. Plus the switched on mom in the story is a reassuring presence. While things may not remain the same once the baby comes along, there will be twice the number of toys, and someone to play with (eventually). So it’s no surprise that from the moment Archie meets his marshmallow of a baby sister, it’s love at first sight.

In addition to the upbeat text, this feel good book exudes such joy as a result of Saunder’s lovely palate of soft pinks and baby blues. Her illustration style is a delightful blend of Lauren Child meets Nick Sharratt that kids will love. And you’ll notice she’s included a pet kitty you can point out to your child for some good laughs. Hint: Look for the cat dressed up in a tutu and crown. Things may not be the same anymore for Archie, but they sure will be better!

– Reviewed by Ronna Mandel

Sweetest Kulu by Celina Kalluk

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Sweetest Kulu by Celina Kalluk
with illustrations by Alexandria Neonakis
is reviewed by Hilary Taber.


When I first saw the cover of Sweetest Kulu (Inhabit Media, $16.95, Ages 0-6), I knew I was hooked. I said to a friend, “I think this is the dearest picture book cover I have ever seen!” I still think so! Of course I wondered what “Kulu” meant. The back of the book provided me with the information I needed.

Kulu is an Inuktitut endearment given to babies, and younger children. The author, Celina Kalluk, is Inuit and an acclaimed throat singer. Her book is as sweet as the sweetest Kulu pictured on the cover. This charming picture book is a gentle lullaby poem from a mother to her child. It tells the story of the day that artic animals from the surrounding region hear about the birth of Kulu, for the wind has spread the news about this remarkable baby.

“Melodies of Wind arrived, sharing stories of how the weather forms,
and telling you to always listen closely. Wise wind had learned your name,
charming Kulu, and invited the world to meet you.”

Each animal that comes to see Kulu bestows a gift upon the baby, much as the fairies in Sleeping Beauty bestowed a gift to the newborn girl. However, each gift beautifully reflects the tie between nature and this brand new arrival, this bundle of joy. One of my favorite pages shows the nobility of the Caribou juxtaposed with the small, sweetly sleeping Kulu on his back:

“Caribou choose patience for you, cutest Kulu. He gave you the ability
to look to the stars, so that you will always know where you are and
may gently lead the way.”

Such wonderful gifts are given by each animal that they far outweigh the gifts given to Sleeping Beauty of beauty and riches. Each gift connects the baby with the land, with the gift of believing in yourself, the ability to give love, the predisposition to help those in need, and so on until you know that Kulu will be guided by these lessons for life. Kulu, in being blessed by the wind and each animal, will always be a blessing to others along the path of life. I can’t think of a better way for a life to begin. Illustrator Alexandra Neonakis brings to life each scene with adorable, but also breathtaking illustrations that combine the sweetest Kulu with each animal who has come to visit.


Interior artwork from Sweetest Kulu by Celina Kalluk with illustrations by Alexandria Neonakis, Inhabit Media ©2014.

This is one of those books that make you want to hug it to you, because it’s that good and true. If I had a child, I would want that child to have the blessings of a good character that Kulu receives. As an aunt, I wish these for my nephew for they make for a truly happy and fulfilling life. Children will love learning the names of each arctic animal. The magical, rhythmic language of the book will be a wonderful bridge between the activities of the day, helping children transition peacefully into their just-before-bed reading.

Sweetest Kulu would make an ideal present for a new baby in your life, and an excellent baby shower gift as well. The whole world seems to be in love with Kulu in this book, and I am too! Take the opportunity to purchase this book now if you have little ones to read to, and buy another to stash away for that baby shower you know you will be invited to! I will be buying one especially for my nephew, who is to me one of the sweetest children there ever was! I want him to learn these important lessons so that they will be a blessing to him all of his life, and guide him to true happiness.

Interested in more stories like Sweetest Kulu? Contact Inhabit Media or Birch Bark Books.

Little Frog’s Tadpole Trouble & Small Bunny’s Blue Blanket by Tatyana Feeney

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A Delightful Double Dose of Tatyana Feeney!
Little Frog’s Tadpole Trouble & Small Bunny’s Blue Blanket,
both reviewed by MaryAnne Locher.


Little Frog’s Tadpole Trouble written and illustrated by Tatyana Feeney, Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2014.

Tatyana Feeney wows us again with her simple brand of illustrating and storytelling in Little Frog’s Tadpole Trouble (Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, $16.99, Ages 1-3).

The universal tale of a new baby (or in this case, nine tadpoles) taking all of mommy and daddy’s attention from big brother (or in this instance, Little Frog) will delight older siblings, whether boys or girls.

We all know newborns don’t do much, but require oodles of attention from their parents. So it is when Little Frog suddenly finds himself the big brother to nine tadpoles. They can’t build towers, they can’t play the drums, and they can’t even jump! All they can do is take mommy and daddy’s time away from Little Frog, who is resentful of missing story time and goodnight kisses from his parents.

Then, one day the tadpoles grow into little frogs themselves becoming perfect playmates for their big brother. Little Frog decides having siblings isn’t so bad after all, and that it makes his family better than ever. Little Frog becomes the best big brother and one youngsters can relate to.

A companion book for Feeney’s other works: Small Bunny’s Blue Blanket (see below) and Little Owl’s Orange Scarf, Little Frog’s Tadpole Trouble is the perfect book when a new baby is brought into the family.



Small Bunny’s Blue Blanket written and illustrated by Tatyana Feeney, Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers.

Here’s a book for all of you parents out there with little ones who have an attachment to a blanket, stuffed animal, or other inanimate object. You are not alone! Who hasn’t tried to sneak a sour smelling “doggie” into the washer? How many times have you heard of the dad cajoling the night janitor to let him into the preschool to retrieve the “bunny” left in a cubby, just so his daughter could go to sleep, or seen the dirty, frayed, and much loved blanket dragging behind a toddler in the grocery store? Tatyana Feeney, author of Little Owl’s Orange Scarf and Little Frog’s Tadpole Trouble, has enchanted us again with Small Bunny’s Blue Blanket and captured one of the cutest and at the same time most frustrating, loves of wee ones: the security blanket.

Small Bunny’s Blue Blanket (Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, $6.99, ages 1-3 ) is released this time as a board book, just perfect for tiny hands to hold. With simple text and illustrations in watercolor and ink, it will be enjoyable for the youngest of “readers.”

Small Bunny and his blue blanket are inseparable. They swing together, play in the sand together, and even paint together. Just as bunnies get dirty and need a bath, so do blankets. At bath time, Small Bunny tries hiding from Mother, but she finds him and his blue blanket. After giving Small Bunny a bath, she insists on washing blue blanket too. Small Bunny counts the minutes until it is done washing and drying, which to him feels like an eternity. Mother is happy with the blanket and says it’s “just like new.” Small Bunny doesn’t like “new” and goes about swinging, painting, and playing with his blue blanket until it’s just the way it was before.

Baby and Me by Emma Dodd

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Baby and Me, written and illustrated by by Emma Dodd (Nosy Crow/Candlewick Press, $14.99, Ages 3 and up) is reviewed by Rita Zobayan.

imageNosy Crow has hit its mark again with Baby and Me by Emma Dodd. This 16-page, interactive picture book is a wonderful introduction to becoming a caring, helpful older sibling. A little girl is playing with her baby doll, and soon realizes that taking care of the doll is hard work. She must feed her, change her diaper, play with her in a bath, keep her warm, and put her to bed. The girl learns empathy for her mommy, who has had a new baby.

Children will enjoy the friendly features of the girl and of her baby doll, toys, and pet cat. The brightly-colored illustrations are simple, as is the text, and those simple explanations work best for a younger audience.

And when it’s bedtime, I say, “Night-night. Sleep tight, sweetie.”

                  Being a mommy is really hard work!

                  That’s why I’m going to give my mommy lots of help…with our new baby!

Each page has an interactive component, as such pulling a tab to see the baby doll drink milk and covering the baby doll with a cozy towel. (My younger daughter can attest to this. She has commented a number of times as to how soft the towel feels.) The pages and cover feel sturdy, so little fingers can turn, pull, and lift without much chance of tearing the book. If your child loves to play mommy or if she’s about to become an older sister, Baby and Me is a winsome read.