A MOTHER’S DAY ROUNDUP OF PICTURE BOOKS
One of my favorite holidays is Mother’s Day. I get to kick my feet up, relax, and get spoiled for several blissful hours. Okay, who am I kidding? That actually doesn’t really happen chez moi, but that’s not what Mother’s Day is about anyway, is it? Love is really at the core of this special day. Let’s look at some picture books that celebrate all kinds of moms in all kinds of ways, because no mom is the same and we wouldn’t want it any other way.
Are You My Mommy? by Mary Murphy (Candlewick; $6.99, Ages 0-3) – This lift-the-flaps board book features an adorable little light blue collared puppy meeting lots of different animals as he asks, “Are you my mommy?” Naturally, each animal encountered replies no and explains what animal he is. “No, I’m a sheep.” The reveal is each animal’s own special baby, from a lamb to a calf, a foal and a kitten, a piglet and a duckling until the most lovely surprise, the puppy’s mommy, a purple collared dog. As little ones enjoy the colorful illustrations done in mixed media with bold black outlines, they’ll learn new words and have fun lifting all the die-cut flaps.
Mom School by Rebecca Van Slyke with illustrations by Priscilla Burris (Doubleday Books for Young Readers; $16.99, Ages 3-7) – What a clever idea, a school for moms! I sure could have used a class or two at this place because, while I may be great at cutting and gluing like the little girl narrating this charming story, I never had a lesson in the cool kinds of classes she imagines her mom attended. There’s the essential learning how to grocery shop without losing your child class. There’s pitching 101 so moms can toss a ball that’s easy to hit. And of course, we can’t leave out the ever popular, and delicious, cupcake baking course. Here’s one of my faves, and it’s got to be called Mom’s Mandatory Multi-tasking:
At Mom School, they learn how to do more than one thing at a time,
like talking on the phone and fixing my hair, and making dinner while
listening to a song I just made up.
Mom School is a sweet, positive picture book not just for Mother’s Day because the skills moms acquire at this school are utilized throughout the year. The adorable, humorous pastel-toned artwork by Burris is expressive and cheerful. Kids are going to enjoy thinking of other classes that their moms are likely to have attended and perhaps, inspired by Van Slyke’s words and Burris’ illustrations, they can try their hand at drawing their own pictures to show all the neat things moms know.
If My Mom Were a Bird by Jedda Robaard (Little Bee Books; $14.99, Ages 4-7) – is such an imaginative, beautiful picture book. “If your mom were a bird,” it says on the book’s back cover, “what kind of bird would she be?” There is not a lot of text in this picture book, but the economy of words works wonderfully because the type of bird each child imagines their mother would be is perfectly presented in the artwork.
If my mom were a bird, she would surely be a watchful … hawk.
The watercolor illustrations on the pages feel crisp, joyful and complement the traits the kids have chosen,
Interior artwork from If My Mom Were a Bird by Jedda Robaard, Little Bee Books, ©2015.
capturing the mood without a lot of description.
Interior artwork from If My Mom Were a Bird by Jedda Robaard, Little Bee Books, ©2015.
As with Mom School, If My Mom Were a Bird is a year round story, but also just right to share on Mother’s Day.
Two other terrific picture books I’d like to recommend are:
Heather Has Two Mommies by Lesléa Newman with illustrations by Laura Cornell (Candlewick Press; $16.99, Ages 3-7) – This is a brand-new edition of the modern classic. And for Mother’s Day, what’s better than having one mom? Having two!! There are many different kinds of families and the family depicted in Heather Has Two Mommies is a family unit made up of two moms, no dad. What counts in families is not being just like every other family, but being loved.
Pete the Cat: Rock on, Mom and Dad! by James Dean (HarperFestival; $6.99, Ages 4-8) – Kids who are crazy about the cat will go wild for this paperback which includes 30 stickers, a fold-out poster and cards. How does a grateful cat say thank you to his parents for all they do? How can he show them how much he loves them? His big, smart brother Bob tells him,
“It doesn’t matter what you do, it’s how you do it.”
And in a classic example of actions speaking louder than words, Pete composes a song and plays it for his parents. He rocks it out of the park and right into their hearts.
– Reviewed by Ronna Mandel
Love of family is celebrated in this heart warming and delightful bilingual picture book. Author Samuel Caraballo’s moving depiction of a young girl’s deep appreciation of her family truly touched my heart! Interwoven throughout the text are symbols of the indigenous people of Latin America with explanations of these symbols at the back of the book. Here is an opportunity for a child to learn about Latin American culture or perhaps these images are wonderfully sweet reminders to a child who is already familiar with them. For me it was a wonderful education! For example the young girl narrating the book says to her mother:
Your hands, the most tender!
When I am scared, they soothe me.
When I am hungry, they always feed me.
When I am thirsty, they give me the most refreshing water.
They give me warmth when I shiver with cold.
Mom, your hands are like rose petals!
I learned that rose petals represent tenderness in Latin America, which is so appropriate. The image of my own sweet mother immediately came to my mind as I remembered her loving care of me in exactly this way. The strong hands of the little girl’s dad who lifts her up every time she falls, the friendly hands of her siblings that encourage her with applause, the happy hands of her grandma who teaches her to lift her spirits by dancing, and the wise hands of her grandfather who teaches her to care for the earth are all described in delightful, vibrant language. In return for the care her family gives her the little girl promises that, when she is a woman, she will always be there for her family.
Interior spread from Estas Manos: Manitas de mi familia/These Hands: My Family’s Hands by Samuel Caraballo with illustrations by Shawn Costello, Piñata Books for Children © 2014.
Shawn Costello’s warm, joyous illustrations are paired so well with the endearing text. My favorite illustration is the one on the cover that depicts the strong bond of love between the little girl and her grandpa as they both try to reach for the brightest star in the night sky! It is truly magical!
Fans of Munch’s Love You Forever will find much to appreciate in this story of the closeness of family ties, and children will feel comforted knowing that the beautiful love of their family is always there for them. Estas Manos: Manitas de mi familia /These Hands: My Family’s Hands reassures them that they will always be surrounded with family who will provide a circle of protection, fun, and wisdom. This book is a wonderful addition to any library, encouraging young children to learn to appreciate the beauty of both Spanish and English. For me it brought back many happy memories of my own family in whose loving hands I was so well cared for!
– Reviewed by Hilary Taber
We know the story of curious Goldilocks, the little girl who goes a bit overboard snooping around the bears’ house. But Goatilocks? Why not? In this picture book, Perl has fractured the beloved fairy tale in a way that parents may see coming, but is still sure to make (human) kids laugh.
This kid, Goatilocks, happens to live nearby three bears who happen to be setting off on a walk (check out Papa Bear’s camera). Not one to shy away from private property, Goatilocks decides to check the place out while the residents are gone. However, rather than following tradition by sampling all three bowls of porridge and ultimately consuming the baby’s portion, this kid not only enjoys the baby’s porridge, but proceeds to devour the entire bowl, and spoon! So you can just imagine what Goatilocks gets up to with the furniture she tries out. And when I say some stuffing’s involved I don’t mean Stovetop!
When at last the guilty goat is discovered, you may think you know what happens next. But remember this is a fractured fairy tale and anything goes! Suffice it to say that thankfully this little kid has a conscience …. and is not the only one in the neighborhood with a boundless appetite!
Howard’s simple, and sweet illustrations are perfect for this picture book. They’re funny, full of expression and don’t overwhelm the story. In other words, they’re just right
– Reviewed by Ronna Mandel
Some Thanksgiving Humor for This Holiday Season
It’s Thanksgiving, and that means all the family is going to Grandma’s house. Gavin is dressed in his best sweater vest and tie, and ready to be bored. His parents put him in the room with the babysitter, and tell him to wait there until he’s called for dinner.
“Have fun!” Gavin’s dad called.
But Gavin knew it was not going to be fun.
Not fun at all.
In The Great Thanksgiving Escape by author/illustrator Mark Fearing, (Candlewick Press, 2014; $15.99, Ages 3-7), Gavin resigns himself to spending his day with drooling, milk-spilling, block-throwing little kids. But his boredom comes to an end when his cousin, Rhonda, emerges from under the coat pile and coaxes a reluctant Gavin to make a break for the swing-set out back.
“The way I see it, Gav,” she said, “is that sometimes you have to make your own fun.”
There are many obstacles between the two escape artists and their desired goal. Cheek-pinching aunts, zombie-like teenagers, and The Great Wall of Butts (adults standing in front of the football game on T.V.), must all be dodged en route to the swings.
Mark Fearing is no stranger to illustrating picture books. He has several award winners under his belt, including The Book That Eats People, The Three Little Aliens and the Big Bad Robot, and How Martha Saved Her Parents from Green Beans. He’s even written and illustrated a graphic novel, Earthling!, but this is the first picture book that he has both written and illustrated. I’m guessing, it won’t be his last.
Fearing has captured the spirit of Thanksgiving from a child’s perspective, both physically and emotionally, though there’s plenty of grown-up humor as well. His illustrations, done in pencil and completed digitally, are of adult shoes, hemlines, and grabby hands in a palette of fall colors. The children’s excited faces are seen peeking over the counter tops at baked goods. Their wide-eyed excitement turns to sad eyes of disappointment, when an ill-timed rainstorm almost spoils their fun. Almost. As Gavin says:
“The way I see it, Rhonda, is that sometimes you have to make your own fun.”
This picture book is a good place to start having fun with your young ones this holiday season. Happy Thanksgiving!
Click here to download an activity kit.
– Reviewed by MaryAnne Locher
Enter our exciting picture books giveaway today!
Out here in California, lots of kids have already returned to school. Others across the country will head back after Labor Day. Either way, parents are looking for new reading material to share with their children and we’ve got a set of three new and soon-to-be-published picture books for you to win courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt & Clarion Books! Scroll down after the reviews for our Rafflecopter to enter the giveaway.
NANA IN THE CITY by Lauren Castillo (available in bookstores September 2, 2014) $16.99, Ages 4-8 Now a 2015 Caldecott Honor Book!!
Review: I couldn’t wait to read this book starring a Nana as one of the main characters because I, too, had a Nana and growing up there were no books mentioning Nana (unless you count Nana the big sheepdog in Peter Pan). However, unlike Nana in this story, my Nana did not live in Manhattan (the water towers on top of the buildings along with the subway art shouted the Big Apple to me.)
This picture book’s young narrator goes to stay with his grandmother “at her new apartment in the city.” From the very start, the little lad makes it clear he does not like the city nor the fact that his nana is living there. It may be a busy, loud, and scary place (Castillo’s illustrations depict construction and scaffolding, menacing-looking graffiti and homeless people asking for money) to a child, but to Nana the city is “wonderful – bustling, booming and extraordinary.”
With the help of a knitted red cape, and an eye-opening walk around the neighborhood to see close-up what is really going on, Nana shows her grandson that the city, though busy and loud, is actually a “perfect place for a nana to live.”
Castillo’s use of primary colors interspersed with blacks and whites conveys the city’s mood and totally complements the text. Whether your child is heading to NYC or any other city for that matter, sharing Nana in the City with them is an ideal way to allay any trepidation they might have about visiting someplace new and different.
CREATURE FEATURES: 25 Animals Explain Why They Look the Way They Do by Steve Jenkins & Robin Page (available in bookstores October 4, 2014) $17.99, Ages 4-8 A Junior Library Guild Selection
Review: Creature Features’ authors and illustrators, Jenkins and Page, have come up with an interesting and fun way to engage readers in this nonfiction picture book about all sorts of animals, from the blobfish to the Egyptian vulture, from the axolotl to the thorny devil. There are so many neat new facts to learn and bright bold artwork to enjoy. By addressing each creature individually …
Dear red squirrel:
Does that fur on your ears help you hear better?
children will feel as if the first-animal (can’t really say first-person now can I?!) response is directed to them personally.
No. It’s there to keep my ears warm. It falls off in the summer and grows back in the winter.
There is also a spread in the end pages with a chart showing animal sizes compared to humans, a map with the locations of where the creatures live and what their diet consists of. Check out www.stevejenkinsbooks.com/creaturefeatures to get details on this delightful book.
SMALL BLUE AND THE DEEP DARK NIGHT by Jon Davis (available in bookstores now) $16.99, Ages 4-8
Review: Small Blue, a young rabbit, has an active imagination, especially in the deepest, darkest night. It’s then she’s convinced her bedroom is full of “creepy things” like gremlins, goblins and giant hairy spiders. In other words, all types of characters that are intent on preventing a little bunny from getting a good night’s sleep.
But Big Brown comforts Small Blue by offering up a completely new perspective after turning on the light It’s just as likely there could be delightful doggies riding around in a unicycle convention. Or, maybe a smiley spaceman is hosting “a zero-gravity birthday party.”
I love how Davis has introduced a plausible new paradigm for parents to share with an upset or frightened child. Kids will be empowered by this picture book. They can choose to be scared of the nighttime, preoccupied by all the sneaky things lurking in the dark, or they can re-envision their room as a realm of positive possibilities; a place where doggies, spacemen and yes, even retired sock-knitting pirates parade about, and by doing so welcome the darkness as one big adventure. And isn’t thinking that way a great way to greet the night?
– Reviewed by Ronna Mandel
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Written by Kim Norman
Illustrated by Keika Yamaguchi,
is reviewed today
by MaryAnne Locher.
Puddle Pug written by Kim Norman and illustrated by Keika Yamaguchi, Sterling Publishing, 2014.
Percy the pug loves puddles. He enjoys puddles of all shapes and sizes. He has his old favorites, which he loves so much he creates a map so he can remember where they are located. Still, he hasn’t found the perfect puddle. Until…
One day Percy heard splashing on
the other side of the fence.
He peered through, and there it was:
The PERFECT puddle.
It was big. It was brown.
And it was oh so friendly.
Percy couldn’t resist.
Perhaps the puddle was inviting, but not the mama pig who occupied it with her three little piglets.
In Puddle Pug, written by Kim Norman and illustrated by Keika Yamaguchi (Sterling Children’s Books, $14.95, Ages 3 and up), Percy, a pug, gets creative and tries to find a way to get on the good side of mama pig and into his perfect puddle. Percy bribes the pig with treats and even tries sneaking into the puddle in disguise, but finds it’s going to take an act of nature to persuade an overprotective sow to let him share her puddle or her piglets, and that’s exactly what happens. After a storm sends pigs scattering in all directions, Percy uses his map to help find Petunia, a teeny, tiny piglet who is lost. Percy not only saves the day, but gets into the good graces of mama pig who finally lets Percy back into the perfect puddle.
Interior spread from Puddle Pug by Kim Norman with illustrations by Keika Yamaguchi, Sterling Publishing, © 2014.
Norman, the author of several children’s books, combines prose and Seuss-like verse,
thick as turtle
and creates the perfect rhythm for a good puddle-romping book.
Yamaguchi, a talented Art Center College of Design (Pasadena) graduate and former Disney intern, provides playful illustrations drawn in pencil then digitally painted. Whether you’re a pug person or not, this picture book will leave both you and your little ones wallowing in the joy of friendship and sharing.
Hey pug lovers, did you know you can read more about your favorite dogs at Pugshome.com, a great website for all things pug? And don’t miss their comprehensive article on 7 Reasons Why You Should Own Pugs.
Photograph of pug reading Puddle Pug courtesy of Sterling Publishing, © 2014.