JULIÁN IS A MERMAID Written and illustrated by Jessica Love (Candlewick Press; $16.99, Ages 4-8)
Julián is a Mermaid, by Jessica Love, is a brilliant debut picture book. As Julián and his abuela leave the public pool, they share the subway ride with some women dressed as mermaids. Julián loves mermaids and feels he is one too. He demonstrates this while his abuela’s away taking a bath. At the crucial moment of discovery, Abuela encourages Julián and takes him to his tribe: a gathering of likeminded people.
Jessica Love’s beautiful sentiment is echoed in her vibrant, festive art done by hand with ink, gouache, and watercolor on brown paper. Richly rendered, expressive characters stand out against muted backgrounds. This 40-page picture book gently shows how easy it can be to accept others. Potentially contentious moments are, instead, depicted with understanding.
About the author: Jessica Love is an illustrator and Broadway actress. She has a BA in studio art from the University of California, Santa Cruz, as well as a graduate degree from Juilliard. She lives in New York.
HARRIET GETS CARRIED AWAY Written and illustrated by Jessie Sima (Simon & Schuster BYR; $17.99, Ages 4-8)
Harriet … oh, amazing and wonderful Harriet, the star of HARRIET GETS CARRIED AWAY along with her two incredible dads, will make readers all Sima fans if they aren’t already!
My students couldn’t get enough of this brilliant 48-page story … from Harriet’s desire to dress-up no matter what the occasion to her phenomenal imagination and charm, they were hooked.
Harriet is SO excited about her upcoming dress-up themed birthday party, and the task at hand is to venture into the city with her dads to buy party supplies since everything else has been taken care of. One stipulation: She’s asked not to “get carried away” when searching for birthday hats at the store. But in Harriet’s world getting carried away comes easy and she soon finds herself wandering off in her penguin costume with real life penguins. She becomes stranded on an iceberg and realizes she must make her way back to her dads at the store and find the party hats before it’s too late.
When her attempts at leaving the penguins don’t pan out, Harriet’s helped by an orca and some delightful pigeons. Harriet returns to her dads and has the best dress-up birthday party ever … with only ONE of her party attendees getting carried away!
This is one of those stories that will be requested numerous times since it provides a unique, yet fully relatable, experience for youngsters. The writing is quick to action and paced beautifully for children to silently take in every delicious illustration that accompanies the beautiful prose. My favorite moment is when a penguin tells Harriet to “lose the bow tie” she has proudly put on over her penguin costume. Instead, she adjusts her fabulous red bow tie and does things her own way.
Read HARRIET GETS CARRIED AWAY and delight in her message of inclusivity, imagination and pure joy
VEGETABLES IN UNDERWEAR by Jared Chapman (And what else would you expect them to wear?)
At last, a picture book that categorically confirms what we’ve suspected all along: underwear is fun-to-wear! In Vegetables in Underwear(Abrams Appleseed; April 2015, $14.95. Ages 2-5), author/illustrator Jared Chapman revels in this most important milestone of life, graduating from diapers to undies.
The celebration starts at the very beginning. The front endpapers show a variety of vegetables dressed in all kinds of snappy attire. On the copyright page, we cheer for the stalk of broccoli whose evident struggle in taking off his shirt brings to hilarious light the technical difficulties of vegetables undressing. By the dedication page, we are well on our way to the underwear party.
Kids will love the lively contrast of color between the stark white pages and vibrant colors of Chapman’s vegetables. Parents and caregivers will appreciate the multiple layers Chapman offers: names of vegetables, colors, opposites, synonymous for underwear (drawers, undies, briefs, underpants—who knew there were so many??), and days of the week. As a side note, we can assume from our hero, the pea, who blissfully runs about holding (not wearing) his underwear that undergarments are optional on Friday. After all, we do have our own ways to celebrate the kick off of another weekend, don’t we? On the opposite side of the emotion spectrum, we also empathize with our friend, the potato, whose “LITTLE UNDERWEAR” creates an embarrassing, shall we say… AHEM…, “cracking” problem that anyone, human or vegetable, can relate. The author himself certainly admits to this fact on the book jacket, but we won’t hold it against him.
We do come to find out on page 27 that, sadly, the underwear club is an exclusive club. “BABIES DON”T WEAR UNDERWEAR. BABIES WEAR DIAPERS!” As such, they are barred from joining the party, complete with confetti and balloons. But, not to worry, for the closing endpapers show them being comforted by a grown up eggplant whose encouraging pat on the head may perhaps give our baby veggies (as well as our preschool audience) all the more reason to ditch the diapers and put on those big boy/girl underpants.
I thoroughly enjoyed this light hearted book and found myself coming back to Chapman’s loveable characters again and again. Head over to your local independent book seller and pre-order your copy today.
– Reviewed by Armineh Manookian
Ever since reading her first Berenstain Bears book, reviewer Armineh Manookian has made it her life’s ambition to live in that “big tree house down a sunny dirt road deep in Bear Country.” When she’s not dreaming about Mama Bear’s kitchen, you can find Armineh in her own, working to keep her cubs well fed. (It’s a full time job!) In addition to kitchen duties, she loves cooking up picture book stories spiced with wacky characters who get into all sorts of trouble. How will they work through their problems? As a former preschool teacher and current mentor, Armineh draws inspiration from those little people whose small size disguises the biggest and bravest heart.
Like a delicious French pastry, Happy Birthday, Madame Chapeau(Abrams Books for Young Readers; 2014, $16.95, Ages 4-8) is a treat not only to behold, but to be enjoyed frequently perhaps with some steaming hot cocoa. After what may be my fourth or fifth reading I can still say I’m on my Happy Birthday, Madame Chapeau honeymoon and continue to find wonderful things to devour on every page.
Observant readers will pick up clues that hat maker extraordinaire, Madame Chapeau is either a war widow, her soldier husband, or maybe her father, having fallen in combat; his hat on a kitchen chair as a sad reminder. Alone and lonely, even on that one night a year, her birthday, Madame Chapeau dresses up, resplendent in her birthday bonnet and takes a stroll to Chez Snooty-Patoot, “the best place in town.” But when she tumbles en route, a crow grabs her headpiece and flies off.
“My hat! My hat! Come back with my hat! You simply can’t steal someone’s bonnet like that! Someone quite special once made that for me. You can’t steal my hat and fly off to a tree!”
Before she can say “baguette,” a baker offers her his trademark tall white hat and so begins the parade of people willing to help out with a loaner. From a policeman to a cowboy, to a Scotsman and a spy, to Charlie Chaplin – we all know his hat as we do the mime’s – total strangers yet lovely souls are being so very kind. I’m delighted, too, that both Beaty and Roberts chose to include such a diverse depiction of Parisians as it’s one of the most multi-cultural cities I know.
Without her special hat, but a birthday cake that’s been paid for, Madame makes her way to Chez Snooty-Patoot to dine alone or so she thinks! Meanwhile, an adorable young black girl whose mother was getting a fitting in Madame Chapeau’s earlier on in the story, is tailing the hat maker, yarn and needles in hand. (At one point we even see a mouse donning a cap matching the girl’s outfit!) NOTE: watch out for this mouse and his hats, as well as the dog and cat belonging to Madame.
“Excuse me, madame,” said a girl dressed in plaid. “I made you a gift from some yarn that I had. I made it myself, and I just want to say, I hope you enjoy it … and Happy Birthday!”
This original new picture book, told in flawless, flowing rhyme is filled to the brim with exquisite, finely detailed watercolor and ink illustrations. Whether read-aloud or to oneself, Happy Birthday, Madame Chapeau, is like having a front row seat at Paris Fashion Week (paying homage to many designers) without the expensive price tag that goes along with it.
Click here to download a Happy Birthday, Madame Chapeau hat activity sheet.
NOTE: Author Andrea Beatty added some cool info in the comment section which I’m paraphrasing here:
Beaty and Roberts show up in the restaurant. (She has a pen and is wearing Rosie Revere’s cheese hat. Roberts has a paint brush. Plus Iggy Peck’s parents make a cameo, too! All of the hats in the book are based on real hats. Some are David Roberts’ actual millinery designs.)
Click here for a link that shows some of the inspiration Roberts drew upon for his illustrations!
There’s a terrific twitter contest going right now to win 1 of 4 copies of the book. To enter, simply tweet a pic of yourself wearing a hat. #HappyBirthdayMadameChapeau. Winners will be announced on November 1!
Colorful socks are for more than just keeping tootsies warm. A young girl and her adorable kitty explore what they can do with an armful of socks in Tania Sohn’s picture book, Socks! (Kane Miller EDC Publishing, 2014, $9.99, ages 2-5).
The striped socks inspire the girl to dress up like a witch and the green socks are an opportunity to hop like a frog. Knee socks are the perfect length to imitate an elephant’s trunk. What’s in the package? Special socks called beoseon that Grandma sent from Korea.
Simple in its language and concept, Socks!is a guide to seeing these everyday accessories as more than mere footwear. With a little imagination, a child can transform these foot warmers into puppets or even use them as an opportunity to become a super hero.
“Everybody looks better with a mustache…Especially monsters.”
Mo’s Mustache, written and illustrated by Ben Clanton, is published by Tundra Books.
“Huzzah!” cries Mo, when he receives a big, black, beautiful mustache in the mail. As soon as he dons his snazzy new lip accoutrement, wacky trouble ensues. Now all the adorable monsters want their own mustache! Mo’s Mustache (Tundra Books, $17.95, ages 3-7), written and illustrated by Ben Clanton, will have young readers eager to sprout facial hair, or at least wiggle a finger across their upper lips.
If you have ever heard a pouting child declare, “Don’t copy me!” you must read this funny, charming picture book. Clanton’s wonderfully expressive little monsters just can’t help but admire Mo’s new look, so each acquires their own unique mustache. While imitation is the most sincere form of flattery, Mo no longer feels special.
Sample interior artwork from Mo’s Mustache, by Ben Clanton from Tundra Books, 2013.
Clanton’s illustrations are “rendered in watercolor and ink using a mustache as a brush” according to the copyright page, and printed on a thick, softly splattered stock with an upscale recycled appearance. As a special treat, the book jacket unfolds into a two foot long illustrated poster titled “Mo’s Mustache Manual: The Essential Guide to Mustache Maintenance.”
Kids will giggle throughout Mo’s quest to maintain his sense of style and individuality while staying one fashion-forward step ahead of the other monsters. Funny expressions like “Murf” and “Booyah!” are captured in floating speech bubbles that encourage reader participation. Mo’s Mustache is sure to bring many laughs and requests to “read it again!”