A THANKSGIVING BOOKS ROUNDUP
Here’s a selection of our 2017 faves
For little ones to gobble up!
Llama Llama Gives Thanks
An Anna Dewdney Book
Illustrated by J. T. Morrow
(Penguin Young Readers; $5.99, Ages 0-3)
In just under 60 words on 14 sturdy pages, Llama Llama Gives Thanks, based on the characters created by Anna Dewdney, perfectly and joyfully conveys what the holiday is all about — celebrating together with friends and family, trying new foods and giving thanks not just on Thanksgiving but throughout the year. A message worth remembering and easy to understand when shared by Dewdney’s beloved characters.
Otis Gives Thanks
Written and Illustrated by Loren Long
(Philomel; $8.99, Ages 0-3)
Otis Gives Thanks, a 30 page board book, is certain to appeal to old Otis fans and bring new ones on board. Long’s popular tractor is grateful for so many things on the farm where he lives and works. Whether he’s hopping over hay or settling down to sleep, Otis is always thankful for playful moments, hard work and friends. This beautiful book radiates warmth with its stunning artwork of muted hues and feeling of a bygone era. Every page is a tribute to the heartland where our food is grown and a caring community including farmers love the land and the country, just like Otis does. www.otisthetractor.com
Where is Baby’s Turkey?
Written and illustrated by Karen Katz
(Little Simon; $6.99, Ages 1-4)
This sweet interactive board book invites young readers to help Baby find his cuddly turkey. By lifting assorted flaps and searching behind seasonal flowers, a gate, a basket, the fridge, in the kitchen and behind the door, Baby is introduced to a colorful variety of Thanksgiving items until his plush toy turkey is found. With just the right amount of flaps to entertain and engage, Where is Baby’s Turkey makes an ideal gift this holiday season for those just learning what Thanksgiving is all about.
The Ugly Pumpkin
Written and illustrated by Dave Horowitz
(Nancy Paulsen Books; $7.99, Ages 2-5)
Move over duckling, here comes The Ugly Pumpkin! Horowitz’s hit, The Ugly Pumpkin is now in board book format with its humorous illustrations and rhyming first person text. Ideal for both Halloween and Thanksgiving, this tale is about a distinctly shaped pumpkin who is frequently mocked, never gets picked and is left to wander on his own to find someplace where he’ll be accepted and belong. The mood picks up when he discovers “a garden that was overrun with squash. I noticed something very odd and then thought, O my gosh …” This little pumpkin was a happy little pumpkin when he learns he’s really a squash! And for him, that was definitely something to be thankful for! Horowtiz’s whimsical illustrations add another layer of zaniness to a funny story that easily engages kids since it’s impossible not to empathize with the long, thin orange narrator.
Rettie and the Ragamuffin Parade
Written by Trinka Hakes Noble
Illustrated by David C. Gardner
(Sleeping Bear Press; $17.99, Ages 6-9)
If you’ve ever visited New York’s Tenement Museum, this historical fiction picture book will surely resonate with you. But even if you haven’t, from the very first page you’ll be transported back to the Lower East Side in November of 1918. Americans were overseas fighting and at home an influenza pandemic swept across the country making thousands of children, rich and poor, orphans. The disease did not discriminate. In the two-room tenement of nine year old Loretta Stanowski, or “Rettie” as she was known, looked after her consumptive mother and three younger siblings. Her father was a soldier somewhere abroad. So, to earn money to support the family during her mother’s illness, Rettie cleaned rags. She also longed for the upcoming Ragamuffin Parade which many now say was the precursor to Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. But would the city call off the event since so many people were ill and public gatherings had been stopped to prevent the influenza from spreading? During the Ragamuffin Parade, wealthy people would line the streets and give pennies to the raggedy clothed children who asked, “Have ya anything for Thanksgiving?” There would also be a scramble at busy street corners were pennies were tossed in the air and kids would scramble to collect as many as possible, hence the name. The parade would provide a much needed opportunity to bring in extra money. Putting food in the mouths of her family was Rettie’s top priority as was staying healthy so when her tenement building’s manager came down with the flu and was quarantined, an opportunity for Rettie to earn more money presented itself. This moving story is a well-written and engaging resource for anyone interested in daily life in early 20th century New York, although these scenes likely played out in cities across America. As the war came to end on November 11, 1918, President Woodrow Wilson declared November 28 a day of Thanksgiving. To this day we gather together as Americans to share a meal and reflect on our many reasons to be thankful. Between Noble’s well-researched story and Gardner’s evocative illustrations, Rettie and the Ragamuffin Parade is a treat. The spirited young Rettie is an inspiring main character and her devotion to her family shines through on every page. An author’s note at the end provides more details for young readers as does an archival photo circa 1910 of the ragamuffins. Despite having grown up in New York, I’d never heard of this parade and appreciate Noble’s successful efforts at capturing the time, place and people struggling daily on the Lower East Side.
13 American Women Who Changed the World
Written by Chelsea Clinton
Illustrated by Alexandra Boiger
(Philomel; $17.99, Ages 4-8)
★ Starred Review – Publishers Weekly
She Persisted, Chelsea Clinton’s historical picture book, celebrates thirteen strong and inspirational American women who overcame obstacles because they persisted. Featured are Harriet Tubman, Helen Keller, Clara Lemlich, Nellie Bly, Virginia Apgar, Maria Tallchief, Claudette Colvin, Ruby Bridges, Margaret Chase Smith, Sally Ride, Florence Griffith Joyner, Oprah Winfrey, and Sonia Sotomayor. The book’s opening line, “Sometimes being a girl isn’t easy” sets the tone. With perseverance comes progress.
Interior spread from SHE PERSISTED: 13 American Women Who Changed the World by Chelsea Clinton with illustrations by Alexandra Boiger, Philomel Books ©2017.
Each woman’s legacy is summarized in only one paragraph and includes the motivational words “she persisted”; the text is offset by corresponding images and a relevant quote. More personal than a history textbook, these bite-size biographies share a glimpse into the adversity overcome to achieve individual dreams. The book’s concluding words, “They persisted and so should you,” reinforces camaraderie and illuminates the message that, if you stick with it, you, too, can evoke change.
Interior spread from SHE PERSISTED: 13 American Women Who Changed the World by Chelsea Clinton with illustrations by Alexandra Boiger, Philomel Books ©2017.
Alexandra Boiger’s watercolor and ink images contrast muted tones alongside bright colors to effectively showcase these important moments. The opening two-page spread includes pictures of fourteen women; though not mentioned in the text, Hillary Clinton is depicted here.
She Persisted would make an encouraging gift for young girls “stepping up” through grades in elementary school. It would seem fitting that Chelsea Clinton write an accompanying book for boys.
Chelsea Clinton is the author of the New York Times bestselling It’s Your World: Get Informed, Get Inspired & Get Going! and, with Devi Sridhar, Governing Global Health: Who Runs the World and Why? She is also the Vice Chair of the Clinton Foundation, where she works on many initiatives including those that help to empower the next generation of leaders. She lives in New York City with her husband, Marc, their daughter, Charlotte, their son, Aidan, and their dog, Soren. You can follow her on Twitter at @ChelseaClinton or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/chelseaclinton.
Alexandra Boiger grew up in Munich, Germany, and studied graphic design before working as an animator in England and then at Dreamworks SKG in the United States. She is the author and illustrator of Max and Marla, and the illustrator of more than twenty picture books including the Tallulah series, and When Jackie Saved Grand Central. She has received the Parents’ Choice Award and has been featured on numerous state reading lists. Alexandra lives in California with her husband, Andrea, daughter, Vanessa, and two cats, Luiso and Winter. You can visit her online at www.alexandraboiger.com.
- Reviewed by Christine Van Zandt
Writer, editor, and owner of Write for Success www.Write-for-Success.com
Best Books for Inauguration Day 2017
As our nation’s 45th president, Donald Trump, is sworn in, it feels fitting to share these three presidential-themed picture books looking at all aspects of a presidency including leadership qualities, first ladies and pets. Enjoy the variety!
Written by Aaron Reynolds
Illustrated by Sara Varon
(Chronicle Books; $16.99, Ages 5-8)
Meet Squid. He’s going to be president and he’s going to be “the greatest president who ever lived.” Towards this goal Squid’ll do five things other presidents have done including:
1. Wearing ties.
2. Living in an enormous house (don’t miss the shark who has just taken a bite out of Squid’s home and is quickly leaving the scene.
3. Being famous and having a book named after him.
4. Talking so everyone has to listen.
5. Bossing everybody.
But somehow the way Squid conveys those qualities doesn’t seem to go over too well with all the other fish in the sea. It takes a very little sardine stuck in a clamshell to explain the true qualities of a special leader which Squid attempts to do. Ultimately though, this all proves to be too exhausting and the way Squid sees it, it might be even better to be king!
Though published last year, the tongue-in-cheek humor of this story still resonates today. Reynolds has found a fun way to help parents make kids laugh while starting the conversation about ego, leadership and character. Varon’s illustrations depicting a hot pink squid jump off the page and grab our attention just like Squid wants.
What’s The Big Deal About First Ladies
Written by Ruby Shamir
Illustrated by Matt Faulkner
(Philomel Books; $17.99, Ages 4-8)
One of the What’s The Big Deal About new series of books, this entertaining and informative picture book is a timely read as we welcome on the second foreign-born first lady to the White House, the first being Louisa Adams. Melania Trump is following in the footsteps of some amazing women including Martha Washington, Mary Todd Lincoln, Eleanor Roosevelt, and so many more.
Author and former White House staffer (including two years working in the first lady’s office of Hillary Rodham Clinton, then leading her NY Senate office), Ruby Shamir poses a bunch of questions that kids might ask about the role of first lady. She answers them but doesn’t rely on lengthy responses. Rather she uses fact boxes to highlight some of the most meaningful and interesting contributions America’s first ladies have made.
“I’m so excited to offer young readers a window into the most important contributions this diverse array of patriotic women have made to our culture and history,” says author Shamir. “Even when women’s opportunities were hampered by custom or law, America’s first ladies turned an ill-defined, very public role into an opportunity to serve our country and shine a spotlight on our finest ideals.”
What’s The Big Deal About First Ladies helps young readers gain insight into the many responsibilities of a first lady. The following examples will also help youngsters appreciate the positive impact first ladies can make on our country: Did you know that Abigail Adams was not only a first lady but the first second lady (Vice President’s wife)? Or that Julia Grant opened up White House events to curious reporters? Or that Grace Coolidge was famous for having a pet raccoon named Rebecca, and having taught deaf children, she got her husband to pay attention to people with disabilities? Mary Todd Lincoln was the first first lady to welcome African Americans to the White House as guests. And when Eleanor Roosevelt learned opera singer Marian Anderson was banned from a concert hall for being African American, Roosevelt was instrumental in getting her to sing at the Lincoln Memorial instead!
Shamir’s keen curation of which first ladies to cover invites curious children to delve deeper with additional reading. Faulkner’s artwork gives a loose interpretation of the featured women, honing in on some key aspects of the first ladies’ lives and breathing life into every scene. There’s also a handy list in the back matter of all the presidents, their term dates and the first ladies’ names that, along with the fascinating content, make this an excellent addition to any classroom or library.
Presidential Pets: The Weird, Wacky, Little, Big, Scary,
Strange Animals That Have Lived in the White House
Written by Julia Moberg
Illustrated by Jeff Albrecht Studios
(Charlesbridge Publishing; $7.48, Ages 3-7)
A not-to-be-missed book for Election Day 2016 and beyond, Presidential Pets is ideal for schools and homes alike. From Abraham Lincoln to Zachary Taylor, these American presidents all have one thing in common, a plethora of noteworthy pets. With intros in rhyme, this 95-page non-fiction picture book is filled with funny facts about presidents, their families, their pets as well as their career accomplishments. Did you know that Andrew Jackson had a cussing pet parrot who had to be removed from his funeral for her foul language? Or that Herbert Hoover’s son Allan Henry had alligators “that roamed through the grounds” of the White House? Or lastly, that Grover Cleveland, the “only president to serve two terms that weren’t back-to-back,” had a virtual menagerie of animals during his presidency including Foxhounds, Dachshunds and chickens?
Moberg has done her homework brilliantly choosing an engaging and entertaining subject that brings to light all the humorous details kids and parents will love about the variety of animals and owners who once called the White House home. The cartoon-style artwork from Jeff Albrecht Studios is a whimsical addition to each presidential pet profile and is sure to bring a smile to many faces with each turn of the page.
FIVE GREAT GIFT IDEAS
FOR THE YOUNG BOOK LOVERS IN YOUR LIFE
Selected by Ronna Mandel
Guess How Much I Love You Deluxe Book and Toy Gift Set
Written by Sam McBratney
Illustrated by Anita Jeram
(Candlewick Press; $15.99, Ages 3-7)
Who doesn’t know and love Big and Little Nut Brown Hare? With this gift set that includes a board book and soft Nutbrown Hare plushy, little ones will be reminded that there’s no limit to the love that’s felt for them. And who can forget the oft quoted phrase, “I love you to the moon and back” without feeling a tug on those heartstrings? An affordable gift that’s sure to please.
The Very Hungry Caterpillar Board Book and Holiday Ornament
Written and illustrated by Eric Carle
(Philomel Books; $19.99, Ages birth-3)
The beloved children’s classic “that teaches children about numbers, days of the week and time,” is perfectly paired with the most adorable apple ornament with that very hungry caterpillar emerging from it. I can just picture the smiles on children’s faces when they not only get to hear the story, but also when they get to enjoy seeing this unique Christmas decoration hanging on their tree. Destined to become a keepsake, this exclusive gift set will make a welcome gift for any family.
Historium: Welcome to the Museum
Written by Jo Nelson
Illustrated by Richard Wilkinson
(Big Picture Books; $35.00, Ages 8-12)
Journey back in time in the comfort of your very own living room as you hold this amazing collection of treasures from the past right in your hands. Explore ancient civilizations from around the globe as you tour the continents seeing stunning illustrations of a broad range of artifacts. Flip slowly through the pages as you would leisurely stroll down a gallery in a world class museum while studying descriptions as detailed and interesting as you’d find in any display case. Nelson and Wilkinson take us first to Africa then onto America, Asia, Europe, The Middle East, and Oceania. There’s also a comprehensive index. I couldn’t down put this oversized volume of often “sacred and culturally important items,” and you’ll find it hard to believe the illustrations are indeed artwork and not photographs. I found the Fresco from Pompeil (p. 61) depicting a Roman woman particularly appealing although picking favorites is difficult when the book contains so many glorious achievements in craftsmanship. From pottery to pillars, rock paintings to royal cemetery headdresses, Historium has it all and then some.
J. Smith: A Miniature Treasure from Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House
Written and illustrated by Fougasse
(Candlewick Press; $25.00, Ages 10 and up)
This new collector’s item is ideal for the dolls’ house and miniatures fans in your life. Imagine how you would have felt as a child, waking up on Christmas morning, to unwrap this red and gold packaged gift. I would have been thrilled to receive such an unusual present, especially to play with when I got out my dolls. J. Smith is an exact replica of a miniature book originally created for Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House, and if you’ve never seen a miniature book before, start here. I needed my reading glasses, but everything was there including gold-edged pages, tiny illustrations and even tinier rhyming text! There’s even a pamphlet included that explains the “Origins of a Masterpiece” and lots more. Here’s how this fairy story set in 1920s London begins:
One night in mid-September –
While storm clouds rode the air –
And a tempest swayed the tree-tops –
Stripping the branches bare –
A fairy was blown out of fairyland –
And fell … in Eaton Square.
I absolutely love this little book and so will your child. They had me at miniature!
Also available: A Sherlock Holmes Story: How Watson Learned the Trick
Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children Boxed Set
Written by Ransom Riggs
(Quirk Books; $56.97, Ages 13 and up )
Got teens not familiar with this extremely popular series? Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children series by Ransom Riggs is an intriguing tale of mystery and magic, inspired by a collection of inexplicable vintage photographs. The story begins in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, in which sixteen-year-old Jacob Portman travels to a mysterious island of the coast of Wales to try to make sense of his grandfather’s untimely and cryptic death. When he discovers Miss Peregrine’s peculiar children and their extraordinary powers, they fight unthinkable monsters and become allies while Jacob realizes that he actually has powers of his own. The story continues in Hollow City and Library of Souls as they embark on a journey to save their headmistress, Miss Peregrine, and many other peculiar children, who have been captured by their sinister enemies. Throughout this captivating series, Jacob learns about his grandfather, the friends that were once left behind, and a world that he could have never imagined. This boxed set includes 3 hardcover novels by Ransom Riggs and 12 collectible peculiar photographs. And just in case you hadn’t heard, the movie adaptation of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children arrives in theaters December 2016. – Reviewed by K.B. Jefferies
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A Recipe for Fun
Baking Day at Grandma’s, written by Anika Denise and illustrated by Christopher Denise, is reviewed by Cathy Ballou Mealey.
Crisp white snow, clear blue sky, and roly-poly bear cubs burst onto the opening pages of this charming picture book, Baking Day at Grandma’s (Philomel, $16.99, Ages 3-5). Snuggled in wooly winter hats, mittens and boots, they march eagerly through the snow to Grandma’s cozy log cabin. Once inside they warm their toes at the fire then dance with delight, chanting “It’s baking day! It’s baking day! It’s baking day at Grandma’s!”
Grandma, a delightful, full-size ursine in paisley shawl and reading spectacles, doesn’t miss a beat. She capitalizes on her grandcubs’ youthful enthusiasm and passes out aprons before consulting her recipe book. “Wooden spoon and measuring cup, mix the batter; stir it up. Fold it gently in the pan, lick the spoon because we can.”
Told in bubbling, bouncy rhyme, the cheery tale and its sweet refrain are a song-like ode to special times with grandmothers. The text captures the simple pleasures of sipping cocoa, sketching on frosted window glass, and waltzing across a braided rug to the tunes on an old Victrola. Once the chocolate treats are baked, cooled and decorated, the cubs bundle and label the treats to give away to others. What they keep for themselves are just Grandma’s loving hugs and their memories of a special, happy day.
The illustrations are spectacular, especially the outdoor scenes of the shimmering pond reflections, snow-covered birch trees, and soft purple winter night sky. Although the interior images of brown bears in a tan cabin stirring chocolate batter may sound monochromatic, they are warm and lush with sunshine, fire glow and moonlight. Best of all, the bear cubs with tiny eyes and large upturned snouts simply exude camaraderie, glee and good cheer at every turn.
This lovely picture book, a collaboration between husband and wife, is a gentle, uplifting treat perfect for sharing on a warm lap or over a cup of sweet cocoa. You may even be inspired to try the delicious chocolate cake recipe included at the back of the book! I recommend baking one to keep and one to share, using the free Baking Day gift tags available here: http://www.anikadenise.com/free-goodies/
Click here for an informative (and fun) interview with illustrator Christopher Denise at All Creativelike.
Enjoy this heartwarming book trailer, too!
– Reviewed by Cathy Ballou Mealey
Where Obtained: I received a copy of Baking Day at Grandma’s from a blog giveaway and received no compensation. The opinions expressed here are my own.