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A Gift for Mama by Linda Ravin Lodding is Perfect for Mother’s Day

A MUST FOR MOTHER’S DAY!

A Gift for Mama, written by Linda Ravin Lodding and illustrated by Alison Jay, is reviewed by Ronna Mandel.

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This is the kind of picture book you will want to read slowly and relish as if you were eating a piece of the finest European chocolate after going off a diet. Simply delicious.

I have a soft spot for stories set in Europe, having lived there over 10 years. Cities with beautiful pedestrian-friendly town squares are abundant, and the Viennese ones where so much of A Gift for Mama (Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, $17.99, Ages 4-8) takes place is no exception. Being transported back to a bustling 19th century Vienna is just part of the pleasure children will experience when reading this gorgeous, uplifting new picture book.

Meet Oskar, an adorable lad eager to find something special to give his mother on her birthday, but alas, he has but one single coin. There, much to Oskar’s delight, “in the middle of the market, was a flower seller.” A bright yellow rose beckoned to him so he used his coin to buy a blossom that would be “the perfect present.”

It doesn’t take long to realize that Oskar has a heart of gold. There’s even a golden, sunshiny quality to all the illustrations, helping the reader feel good all over as Oskar’s kindness is demonstrated again and again. As the story unfolds, Oskar’s encounter with an artist – with whom he trades his rose for a “beautiful horsehair paintbrush” – sets off a series of exchanges with a conductor, a singer, a lyricist, an Empress and ultimately a sad little girl, linking one individual to the other, and always demonstrating Oskar’s generosity.

You can almost hear a waltz playing in the background as you turn the pages of this stunning-to-look-at picture book. Between Lodding’s obvious love of Vienna captured in her prose, and Jay’s crackly-style, vivid vignettes of vintage Viennese life, it’s tempting to book a flight to Austria to track down the places depicted in this must-read picture book. A Gift for Mama is at once a touching tribute to a child’s love for his mother while also an homage to glorious Vienna of a bygone era. I’m going back for seconds!

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The Moon and so Much More

Soar To Great Heights

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Are you familiar with this oldie but goodie? I Took the Moon for a Walk ($14.99, large format board book; $7.99, paperback, Barefoot Books, ages 1-7) by Carolyn Curtis and illustrated by Alison Jay is simply stunning. This oversized board book is a personal fave because the rhyming verse is not only well paced, but so original.  “I carried my own light just in case, the Moon got scared and hid its face.”

Toddlers will settle down for sleep while listening to the book’s gentle, soothing rhymes. Parents, invite your little ones to join the little boy, his imagination and the most beautifully detailed crackly and glazed-faced moon as they wander, hand holding hand, around an enchanting village one magical night. “We danced ‘cross the bridge where the smooth waters flow. The Moon was above and the Moon was below …” Creatively illustrated with cats, bats, foxes, owls, snails, swans, hares and howling dogs, I Took the Moon for a Walk is a comforting bedtime story, certain to allay any fears of the dark.

A bonus to the book is a page at the end devoted to facts about The Mysterious Moon and another all about the featured creatures in The World at Night. If you have a chance to check out Barefoot Books’ website and learn more about their core values and brilliant selection of imagination-sparking storybooks, I highly recommend doing so.

-Reviewed by Ronna Mandel

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