Sylvia Earle's life as an oceanographer started early. As a child she spent hours observing and describing the animals and plants in the water around her. This continued into adulthood as she spent many hours underwater.
Why I picked it up: I'm always looking for books on science that are accessible to younger readers.
Why I finished it: The paintings on each page are brimming with detail and filled with the creatures that Earle was observing at the time. I could spend hours looking at the fish, sea plants, and corals that swirl around within each illustration.
I'd give it to: Milo, who will like the robot-like aqua suit, mini sub, and underwater sphere that Earle uses for her underwater observations.
"This picture book reads like an instant classic.... Oh, yes!" raved Kirkus Reviews in a starred review.
Young children will delight in repeating the refrain "OH, NO!" as one animal after another falls into a deep, deep hole in this lively read-aloud. This simple and irresistible picture book by hugely popular picture book creators—Candace Fleming and Caldecott medalist Eric Rohmann—feels like a classic-in-the-making. Fans of Rohmann's Caldecott Medal-winning My Friend Rabbit, will be thrilled to see a new book created in the same expressive and comical style.
Colorful adaption of the 1960's song about classic movie monsters putting on a dance party.
Why I picked it up: To reinforce my skepticism about unimaginative children's books that just remix old songs.
Why I finished it: My children (nine and eleven) were completely delighted. The illustrations contain lots of hilarious details that reward careful inspection (Dracula has a fanged teddy bear). After reading it we spent all morning playing the song on YouTube and dancing around the house singing it together in our best horror movie voices.
I'd give it to: Paul, to share with his younger boys. He will soak in the varying color palettes, which are used to great effect, and they'll all enjoy the hundreds of different characters, each of them sillier than the next.
In a starred review, Kirkus Reviews raves, "An award-winning artist captures the passion and purpose of this most notable 20th century American speech.... A title for rememberance and for re-dedication to the dream."
On August 28, 1963, on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial during the March on Washington, Martin Luther King gave one of the most powerful and memorable speeches in our nation's history. His words, paired with Caldecott Honor winner Kadir Nelson's magificent paintings, make for a picture book certain to be treasured by children and adults alike. The themes of equality and freedom for all are not only relevant today, 50 years later, but also provide young readers with an important introduction to our nation's past.
From Dr. Bernice A. King: “My father’s dream continues to live on from generation to generation, and this beautiful and powerful illustrated edition of his world-changing ‘I Have a Dream’ speech brings his inspiring message of freedom, equality, and peace to the youngest among us—those who will one day carry his dream forward for everyone.”
It's a wordless picture book. Every page settles you in to one perspective, then suddenly pulls back and zooms you into another. You were looking at a toy catalog, and now you are looking at a photo of someone holding the catalog (and that person is in a cruise ship ad on the side of a bus).
Why I picked it up: I discovered this book while working as a page for Spokane Public Library when I had to reshelve it. The bold red cover features a guy disappearing into the center of first “o,” like it’s a rabbit hole, so I had to check it out.
Why I finished it: Its mad stance on perspective. The black, left-hand pages force my eyes to the right. It’s a bit like being pulled into a tunnel and finding myself in a new place, looking at something familiar (from the previous page) but seeing it in a new context that makes me question reality both in its pages and the physical world.
I'd give it to: My son, Ivan. He loves the idea of the tiny world in Horton Hears a Who and would like the pictures in pictures that show other tiny worlds around him.
"What is breathtakingly shown here, through accurate, cross-hatched watercolor paintings; excerpts from Sullivan’s correspondence to her former teacher; and concise and poetic language, is the woman’s patience and belief in the intelligence of her student to grasp the concepts of language," praised School Library Journal in a starred review.
Author Deborah Hopkinson and illustrator Raul Colón present the story of Helen Keller in a fresh and original way that is perfect for young children. Focusing on the relationship between Helen and her teacher, Annie Sullivan, the book is interspersed with excerpts of Annie's letters home, written as she struggled with her angry, wild pupil. But slowly, with devotion and determination, Annie teaches Helen finger spelling and braille, letters, and sentences. As Helen comes to understand language and starts to communicate, she connects for the first time with her family and the world around her. The lyrical text and exquisite art will make this fascinating story a favorite with young readers. Children will also enjoy learning the Braille alphabet, which is embossed on the back cover of the jacket.
Beep (a robot) and Bah (a goat) set off on an adventure to find the mate to the sock in Bah’s mouth.
Why I picked it up: I was initially attracted to the bright yellow on the cover, and then I realized it was by Burks. I loved his first graphic novel, Gabby and Gator.
Why I finished it: It’s a very cartoony graphic novel disguised as a picture book. Burks mixes bright colors, slapstick humor, and even a Chicken Little reference. You will believe a goat can snorkel.
I'd give it to: Gigi, because the pig Beep questions is square, just like one of her favorite plush toys, Haminal.
Zora and Langston. Billie and Bessie. Eubie and Duke. If the Harlem Renaissance had a court, they were its kings and queens. But there were other, lesser known individuals whose contributions were just as impactful, such as Florence Mills. Born to parents who were former-slaves Florence knew early on that she loved to sing. And that people really responded to her sweet, bird-like voice. Her dancing and singing catapulted her all the way to the stages of 1920s Broadway where she inspired songs and even entire plays! Yet with all this success, she knew firsthand how bigotry shaped her world. And when she was offered the role of a lifetime from Ziegfeld himself, she chose to support all-black musicals instead.
Fans of When Marian Sang and Ella Fitzgerald: The Tale of a Vocal Virtuosa will jump at the chance to discover another talented performer whose voice transcended and transformed the circumstances society placed on her.
This book uses rhymes to teach children how to approach, greet, and act around dogs. The illustrations are a vibrant, almost bizarre mix of bold shapes and charming details, with just enough text to get the point across. Many rhymes are also simple enough to recall for real life encounters with dogs. From learning how to "make your hand into a plate" to offer treats to new furry friends, to understanding how dogs may not like getting hugged or patted on the head ("Dogs aren't toys to hug and squeeze or poke or chase or tug or tease"), there is something for dog lovers of all ages to learn and laugh at in this book.
Why I picked it up: My friend is a dog trainer who worked with the author and her poodles.
Why I finished it: For many children there’s a huge temptation to simply run up to any dog they see. I needed a silly but informative way to educate kids when they meet our dog, Jack.
The illustrations are a vibrant, almost bizarre mix of bold shapes and charming details, and there’s just enough text to get points across. The rhymes are easy and addictive, and the concepts are clear for both children and parents without becoming preachy. I like to pick a favorite pup every time I share it with little ones: sometimes it's the single-fanged poodle, other times it's Bootsy, the timid chihuahua.
I'd give it to: Our new neighbors, Kate and Craig, to share with their two toddler sons. They love Jack (the best dog ever!), and he loves them back. But I’m worried another dog won’t be so friendly when they try to feed it handfuls of grass.
A picture book populated by primary-colored dots and a smattering of words on each page. The words instruct the reader on how to touch or move the book. Then the results of following the directions are seen when the page is turned. It’s an electronics-free video game.
Why I picked it up: I saw it in a catalog, and instantly desired to obey its commanding title.
Why I finished it: It rises above its simplicity to become a totally engaging experience. Reading, tapping, tilting, and shaking this book (according to instructions) made me feel like a little kid again. Or maybe an adult playing with an iPad for the first time.
I'd give it to: Thekla, who is my favorite four-year-old to read to. Despite being amazingly tech savvy, she would still dissolve into giggles and make me read this four times in a row.
Langston Hughes’ 1925 poem, powerfully adapted through painting and mixed-media collage.
Why I picked it up: My wife and I are always searching for books that help our daughter Rosie understand and connect to her heritage. It's made easier by the fact that she will read anything featuring black girls like her.
Why I finished it: Hughes' words are moving by themselves, but Collier takes them to a new level by conveying a little-known (to me) part of African American history: Pullman porters would gather leftover media from first-class passengers and toss them to the poor communities along the rails.
I'd give it to: Leanne, who does realistic art which is very unlike my cartoony scrawls. She'll be floored by the subtle and well-executed flag symbolism layered into the art. I can't even begin to imagine how someone conceives of stuff that clever or effective. Maybe she can.
Regina, a princess, behaves badly. She hits people with her scepter, replaces the sugar with salt, and mixes up the wizard’s ingredients (with explosive results). But her parents think she’s perfect.
Why I picked it up: The princess is choking a fairy on the cover.
Why I finished it: On page three, after she grabs the fairy out of the air, she pulls its wings off, making a frog faint.
I'd give it to: Heather, who’d laugh at the image of the frog-kissing class at the school for princesses where Regina is finally sent.