Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Yum! Books about Food

It’s getting near to Thanksgiving here in the States, but that’s another post. Here, it’s late afternoon, so I’ve got the snacky urge – you know, that urge that hits after lunch, but while dinner is still too long away to wait? Let’s talk about food books and see if that takes the edge off (or I’ll just brew a cup of coffee, while I’m at it).

Little Green Donkey, by Anuska Allepuz, (July 2020, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536209372

Ages 3-6

In this relatable story that will give preschoolers and grownups a giggle, Little Donkey LOVES to eat grass, even when his mom pleads for him to try something different. Little Donkey just responds, “No thanks!” and keeps munching on leafy, chewy grass until waking up one morning and discovering, upon seeing his reflection, that – AHHH! – he’s turned GREEN! After unsuccessfully trying to disguise the new color, Little Donkey has to try new foods: Blech! Pew! Pew! Yuck! But hey… carrots are pretty good… watch out, Little Donkey! What color will you turn next? Mixed media illustrations bring this hilarious story to life, and kids and parents alike will recognize the picky eater in all of us (I’ve got a chicken nugget Kiddo here, myself). Pair this with Greg Pizzoli’s The Watermelon Seed for extra laughs and dramatic reading.

 

Every Night is Pizza Night, by J. Kenji López-Alt/Illustrated by Gianna Ruggiero, (Sept. 2020, Norton Young Readers), $17.95, ISBN: 978-1-324-00525-4

Ages 4-7

Pipo is a little girl who loves pizza. Pizza is the best, and she wants it every night, no matter what her family says: after all, she says it’s a scientific fact; she’s done the research. But maybe…. just maybe she needs to collect more data, so off she goes to visit friends around the neighborhood and try their foods. For data collection, clearly. As she tries different foods like bibimbap, tagine, red beans and rice, and more, she discovers that other foods are really good, too! Pipo learns that pizza can be the best, along with other foods, too: it just depends on what you need at that moment. Beautifully written with humor and sensitivity, Every Night is Pizza Night looks at the connection we have to food within our cultures and our homes and hearts: Pipo learns that food can be “something that reminds you of home”; “the kind that says ‘I love you’ without making a sound’, or something to share”. Food brings us together. Front endpapers feature all the pizza makings splashed colorfully across the spread, and back endpapers incorporate other ingredients for the foods Pipo discovers in the story. The artwork is colorful, bright, a touch frenetic when Pipo declares her love for pizza, and adorably delivers the story’s message. A pizza recipe at the end of the book invites readers to cook with their families. Pair with William Stieg’s Pete’s a Pizza for a tasty, ticklish pizza storytime.

 

Hot Pot Night!, by Vincent Chen, (Sept. 2020, Charlesbridge), $16.99, ISBN: 978-1-62354-120-0

Ages 4-7

This modern take on Stone Soup is diverse and adorable. It’s evening in a building, and everyone asks the eternal question: What’s for dinner? A young boy proposes hot pot, a traditional dish in Asian countries, and the whole building is in! Neighbors arrive with a hot pot and ingredients to share: one neighbor brings the broth; another, the meat; one grew the vegetables to add to the pot, and others help out by prepping the food. Once it’s ready, everyone partakes until the last scrap is gone… until next time! A story of coming together and sharing food, culture, and company, Hot Pot Night is perfect for storytime reading and would be great with flannel board figures you can easily make. Digital illustrations are colorful, bright, and fun. A hot pot recipe at the end encourages readers to start their own hot pot nights. Endpapers feature colorful hot pot ingredients.

While we can’t eat together as often as we’d like these days, there’s always Zoom and Google Meets. Try a virtual storytime and dinner one night! Publisher Charlesbridge has loads of free downloadables for a Hot Pot party!

 

Veg Patch Party, by Clare Foges/Illustrated by Al Murphy, (Oct. 2020, Faber & Faber), $15.95, ISBN: 978-0571352852

Ages 3-7

From the team that brought you Kitchen Disco and Bathroom Boogie, we get a Veggie Patch-a-Palooza as the farm beds down for the night and the vegetables take the stage to dance and sing in the mud for a Veg Patch Party! Kids will love seeing cartoon pumpkins put on disco boots, carrots forming a conga line, and red hot chillis rock out on stage. The rhyming story has great repetition with its call to action: “So conga like a carrot, / Party like a pea, / Rock out like a radish, / YEAH! / And boogie like a bean!” Bathroom Boogie went over huge for me at storytime, so I’ll be enjoying Veg Patch Party with my littles next. Perfect for flannel storytimes, and there are lots of cute vegetable coloring pages to have handy. I like doing a “cute vegetable coloring pages” search so you get animated, kid-friendly faces, like this selection. Endpapers have veggie sketches with smiling vegetables to greet readers. Pair with one of my oldies but goodies, Food Fight, for a storytime about feisty food.

 

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

While We Can’t Hug explains the now normal to kids

While We Can’t Hug, by by Eoin McLaughlin/Illustrated by Polly Dunbar, (Aug. 2020, Faber & Faber USA), $15.95, ISBN: 978-0571365586

Ages 3-7

Last year, Hedgehog and Tortoise became best friends in The Hug. This year, social distancing has hit them, too, but they’re finding ways to work around it in While We Can’t Hug. For the book’s duration, Hedgehog is on the left side, and Tortoise on the right; they’re sad that they miss each other but can’t hug, until Owl swoops in and tells them that there are many other ways to show love and affection. The two friends tentatively give it a shot, first, by waving, then by making funny faces. Inspired, the two write letters, blow kisses, dance, and paint pictures together, simply enjoying the other’s company. Author Eoin McLaughlin eloquently uses brief text to communicate the many ways to show others we love them while hugging isn’t an option. Polly Dunbar’s warm artwork uses comforting colors and soft shading to make each reader feel like they’re included in Hedgehog’s and Tortoise’s circle of friends.

For little ones who are having a difficult time not seeing friends and family, or seeing them and not being able to run and hug them, books like this are vital in explaining that love is still there, even when touch isn’t an option. Polly Dunbar provides the most important observation as Hedgehog and Tortoise share love across the book’s pages: “They could not touch. They could not hug. But they both knew that they were loved”. And that’s the message to take to heart.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads, programs, Storytime, Storytimes

Calm Down Zebra and a fantastic readaloud!

About two years ago, I was lucky enough to read and talk about a sweet book about the ABCs called Not Yet Zebra, by Lou Kuenzler and illustrated by Julia Woolf. It’s about a little girl named Annie, who wants to paint pictures of all her animal friends in alphabetical order, and an impatient Zebra who just wants to get his portrait done NOW.

Flash-forward two years, and Lou and Julia are back with Calm Down, Zebra! It’s a book that talks colors, and managing one’s emotions. Annie and Zebra are back; this time, Annie asks her animal buddies to help her teach her baby brother, Joe, about his colors. Frog offers up the green paint, and Lion gets yellow; Black goes to cat, but wait! Polar Bear has PINK STRIPES? It turns out that Zebra is at it again, running loose with a paintbrush and a wicked sense of humor. Can Annie reign in Zebra – or will Zebra show Annie that it’s okay to let loose and have fun once in a while?

Calm Down, Zebra, by Lou Kuenzler/Illustrated by Julia Woolf, (Apr. 2020, Faber & Faber),
$16.95, ISBN: 978-0-571-35170-1
Ages 2-6

Calm Down Zebra is adorably funny and teaches some lovely lessons beyond colors and the animals who sport them. There’s a sweet message about imagination, and the need to explore the creative urge: maybe even color outside the lines once in a while. Zebra may look like a cheeky menace to Annie, but you’ll quickly see that he, like a toddler or a preschooler, is exploring his natural curiosity. Lou Kuenzler has given us delightful characters in Annie and Zebra, who parents and kids will recognize in themselves instantly (you try herding a group of children when one class clown is the attention draw). Julia Woolf’s illustrations are too much fun; bright and bold colors stand out against pale or stark white pages, and colorful paint splatters will get little fingers itching to pick up brushes and stick their fingers in paint puddles of their own. A spread where a peacock gets to spread his wings is stunning, with silver and gold foil adding to his illustriousness. An elephant’s posterior provides a broad canvas for Zebra and will get plenty of giggles.

An activity kit loaded with Annie’s black and white paintings let kids create their own colorful animal friends. Let loose your inner Zebras and download it!

I was so excited to work with Lou Kuenzler and Julia Woolf’s publicist, Becky Kraemer, to arrange for the author and illustrator to have a book talk, plus readings of both Zebra books, for my library system! I’m pasting it here for you to enjoy, and I’ll be taking the link down in mid-June. Thank you to Faber & Faber, Becky Kraemer and Cursive Communications & Marketing, and most of all, to Lou Kuenzler and Julia Woolf, for a wonderful storytime and Q&A.

Posted in Uncategorized

T.S. Eliot’s Cats get the picture book treatment

The Cats movie is coming out in December; whether you’ve seen the trailer or not, whether you’re ready for this movie to come to the big screen or not, you know it’s going to be an event. Me? I’m perfectly happy to read these Faber & Faber picture books starring some of T.S. Eliot’s more memorable feline characters. There are five books in the series; I’ve received three to review, and have to say, I really enjoy them. Am I going a Cats movie storytime? I don’t know about that, but I am always down for a cat storytime.

Macavity: The Mystery Cat, by T.S. Eliot/Illustrated by Arthur Robins,
(July 2016, Faber & Faber), $9.95, ISBN: 978-0-571-30813-2
Ages 4+

Macavity is a master thief, a cheat, a sneak, a charismatic rebel who always manages to stay one paw ahead of the law. T.S. Eliot’s Macavity poem wanders through this story, amusingly illustrated by Arthur Robins, who wittily draws the marmalade tabby as a rangy, sly cat who sharp-eyed readers will catch glimpses of at the scenes of his various crime scenes. The bloodhound police dog just can’t keep up with the Napoleon of Crime.

 

Mister Mistoffelees: The Conjuring Cat, by T.S. Eliot/Illustrated by Arthur Robins,
(October 2016, Faber & Faber), $9.95, ISBN: 978-0-57132-222-0
Ages 4+

Mister Mistoffelees is the elegant conjurer, the magician, who can creep through the tiniest crack and walk on the narrowest rail. He can play tricks on humans, and is rumored to have magical powers, not just skill at sleight of hand. The little black cat is can saw a dog in half and produce kittens from his magical hat; he can be asleep by the fire while he’s heard on the roof. He’s just the Magical Mister Mistoffelees!

 

Jellicle Cats, by T.S. Eliot/Illustrated by Arthur Robins, (Aug. 2017, Faber & Faber),
$9.95, ISBN: 978-0-57133-341-7
Ages 4+

The Jellicle Cats are the party animals of T.S. Eliot’s world. With their dapper attire and their cool dance moves, the group of black and white cats head en masse to the Jellicle Ball, where they dance and sing by the light of the moon. They sleep all day, saving their energy to let it rip when the Jellicle Moon shines bright.

Each book is illustrated by Arthur Robins, who brings a wonderful, fun look to T.S. Eliot’s playful rhymes. Each cat is bursting with personality, from Mister Mistoffelees’s rainbow bow tie and wand flourishes to Macavity’s sly smile as he traps an unsuspecting mouse, to the dapper Jellicle Cats doing the Charleston under a full moon. The books are colorful and the art is bold, with chunky outlines defining the cats and their environs. The poetry is in large, bold, black font, making this an easy read for newly confident readers that like to play with language, and works really well in a storytime, where you can be playful with the words and your own movements. Add some felt Cats to your storytime! These are begging for a felt board reading.

The Kiddo (my second grader) got a big kick out of these – Macavity is a favorite, because he’s 7 and he’s all about being a rebel. I’m going to introduce these in a storytime and see how they go over; I’d love to include these in our poetry collection, because it’s making a classic work super-accessible to young learners.

Don’t miss Arthur Robins’s webpage, where you can see more of his illustration, scribbles, and cartoons he’s had featured in UK magazines.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Celebrating Hair with Hannah Lee and Allen Fatimaharan

My Hair, by Hannah Lee/Illustrated by Allen Fatimaharan, (Sept. 2019, Faber & Faber), $16.95, ISBN: 9780571346868

Ages 4-7

A little girl has a birthday coming up, and wants a new hairstyle to debut. What should she get? This rhyming story follows a girl of color as she explores different hairstyles, observing friends, family, and the ladies at the salon. She mulls over dreadlocks, fades, braids, close-cropped, and wraps and turbans before finally listening to her mother and going with her natural, beautiful afro.

This acclamation of black hair and culture is such a joy to read. The rhyming text is fun and works beautifully with the images: earth-toned, bold, expressive characters and settings abound, and the personality of the images pops off the page. There are pets throughout the story, many sporting dramatic hairstyles (fur styles?) that match their humans. The young girl uses positive, lively words to run through styles she knows: her mother’s dreadlocks are “dazzling”; her uncle’s waves “swirl all over his head”; her aunt’s close-shaved hair is “like the head of a lioness”, and her grandmother “found one [grey hair] years ago and invited them all to stay”.

A positive, upbeat book about hair and community, and a smart add to your picture book collections.

A side note – if you haven’t had a chance to read or see the animated short for Mathew A. Cherry and Vashti Harrison’s Hair Love yet, please get the book or see the short (it’s running before Angry Birds 2; I hope other kids’ movies pick it up).

 

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Squishy McFluff is off to tea with the Queen

Squishy McFluff: Tea with the Queen, by Pip Jones/Illustrated by Ella Okstad, (May 2019, Faber & Faber), $16.95, ISBN: 9780571337279

Ages 3-7

Squishy McFluff, the Invisible Cat, meets the Queen for tea in his first picture book! He and his favorite human, Ava, are off to London with Ava’s family for some sightseeing, but Squishy – and therefore, Ava – have other plans. Slipping into Buckingham Palace, they happen upon the Queen herself, who’s looking over a grocery list for her corgi. Ava boldly introduces herself and Squishy (still invisible) to HRH, who insists they both stay for tea, and sends her home with invisible crowns for herself and Squishy.

Squishy McFluff is the star of a British chapter book series that looks absolutely adorable (can we get these in the States?); Tea with the Queen is the first Squishy picture book in the series. Told in rhyme from Ava’s point of view, the story is charming and perfect for tea party storytime. The story will appeal to kids’ imaginations – ask them if they’ve ever had imaginary friends or pets! – and get the creative juices flowing. Endpapers are dotted with crowns and cat paws, and Ella Okstad’s artwork is sweet and colorful, with Squishy being a dominant character, albeit a transparent one.

I love a good tea party book, and this will join my shelf. Pick this one up for yours if you have readers who love animal stories, tea parties, and stretching their imaginations. Enhance a storytime activity with some of the suggestions and downloadables on the Squishy McFluff website, including coloring pages and a dot-to-dot activity.

 

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Eoin McLaughlin and Polly Dunbar know the power of The Hug

The Hug, by Eoin McLaughlin/Illustrated by Polly Dunbar, (April 2019, Faber & Faber), $15.95, ISBN: 9780571348756

Ages 3-6

A sad hedgehog just wants a hug to help feel better, but every animal he comes across seems to find an excuse to run away. A tortoise also wants a hug to boost its spirits, but the animals all have other things to do, too. A wise owl tells the hedgehog that he’s a bit spiky to hug, and the tortoise’s shell is a bit hard, but “there’s someone for everyone”. And when the hedgehog and tortoise meet, they share a hug that will warm the insides of every reader in the room. The Hug is an adorable flipbook with short, easy-to-read sentences about the power of a hug. Read Hedgehog’s story, then flip the book and read Tortoise’s; they meet in the middle, in a hug that makes the two friends, and their readers, “as happy as a hug can make you… as happy as two someones can be”.

The artwork is simple and sweet, set against a plain ivory background. When the two characters hug, the joy on their faces is matched only by the swirls of color, stars, and flower petals surrounding them. It’s a sweet story that is perfect for storytime, perfect for cuddletime, wonderful for any time. I read this in a recent storytime and the kids and parents alike loved the leadup to the hug and the flip from one story to the next. A sweet story that reminds readers that there’s always someone out there to hug, no matter how prickly or how tough you may think you’re feeling.

Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Humor, Intermediate

The Goblin Princess: Dust that house, and untrain your dragon!

Originally published in the UK, The Goblin Princess is a sweet chapter book series perfect for kids who are ready to branch out from easy readers. Let’s meet The Goblin Princess and her family.

The Goblin Princess: Smoky the Dragon Baby, by Jenny O’Connor/Illustrated by Kate Willis-Crowley, (Oct. 2018, Faber & Faber), $8.95, ISBN: 9780571316588

Ages 7-10

Matty is a goblin princess, but she’s also the odd goblin out in her family. She’s always being told to untidy her room, and eat up her slug porridge; her family – like most goblins – is also terrified of pretty things, like kittens and butterflies, and reading fairy tales are sure to give them nightmares, but Matty just doesn’t fit in. When the family dragon, Sparks, lays an egg and a sweet little blue dragon emerges, Matty falls in love. But little Smoky is polite and sweet, and the untraining her father, the Goblin King, calls for doesn’t quite take. Luckily for Matty, little Smoky finds some talent in burning the toast (a goblin delicacy)! When Matty and her family go on a goblin family picnic at the Dragon Lagoon, Matty and Smoky have a little side adventure of their own, meeting nasty hobgoblins and kind Forest Fairies (who aren’t at all terrifying) – and maybe Matty can convince her family that she and Smoky are just naughty enough after all!

The Goblin Princess: The Grand Goblin Ball, by Jenny O’Connor/Illustrated by Kate Willis-Crowley, (Oct. 2018, Faber & Faber), $8.95, ISBN: 9780571316601

Ages 7-10

The next book in the Goblin Princess series picks up fresh off the heels of Smoky the Dragon Baby. The royal Goblin Family is preparing for the Grand Goblin Ball, but there’s trouble afoot: the hobgoblins are planning to crash the party and CLEAN! And PAINT! And worst of all, they’re planning to capture Smoky! Luckily, some of the Forest Fairies overheard the plot and warned Matty in time. Matty and Smoky join forces with their new friend, Dave – a Frog of Mystery and Magic – to beat the hobgoblins and save the party! Recipes for Scary Potato Faces, Ghoulish Goblin Drinks, and Peppermint Cream Bugs let readers plan a Goblin Ball of their very own!

The Goblin Princess books are sweet, entertaining, and upbeat. Kids are going to get a kick out of the backwards world that the goblins live in: messing up your room? Eating sloppily and having food fights? Untraining your dragon and being an irresponsible pet owner? It sounds awesome, right? Which makes poor Matty and Smoky outsiders in their worlds, and sets the stage for some hilarious happenings. Kate Willis-Crowley’s watercolor artwork adds an incredible cute factor to the storytelling, with adorable characters like Smoky the Dragon and Matty the Goblin, and great visuals for events like the Goblin buffet, complete with Key Slime Pie and Mice Cakes.

Pictures all come from Kate Willis-Crowley’s blog.

I enjoyed the first two Goblin Princess stories, and look forward to the third one, The Snow Fairy (it looks like it was just published in the UK… can we get a copy stateside soon?) Readers who love enjoy fantasy will enjoy the close friendship between Smoky and Matty, and get a kick out of Smoky’s baby talk. The bad guys aren’t terribly bad. The hobgoblins, for instance, really just want Smoky around to warm up their food; nothing truly nefarious (unless you count cleaning and painting the Goblin castle: that’s just horrible). Give this to your Unicorn Princesses/Hamster Princess/Princess in Black fans.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Up, up, and away with My Bed is an Air Balloon!

My Bed is an Air Balloon, by Julia Copus/Illustrated by Alison Jay, (Oct. 2018, Faber & Faber), $15.95, ISBN: 9780571334841

Ages 3-6

This bedtime story has an entertaining spin: the book has two front covers, and can be read front to back, or back to front. It’s a mirror form poem where two children – a light-skinned boy and a dark-skinned girl go on a bedtime adventure in their beds, which magically transform into hot air balloons that transport them over treetops and hills, spying fantastic animals like flutterrufts, whifflepigs, and floogs. The children meet in the middle – two air balloons that pass in the night? – and the journey resumes on the next spread, as the story continues in reverse with the opposite child.

My Bed is an Air Balloon brings playfulness and joy to bedtime storytime. Alison Jay’s whimsical art creates a fantasy landscape where smiling suns and moons overlook a sea of white, cloudlike dream-shapes; giant beds that become balloons and ships, and boats that look suspiciously like bedtime slippers. There is a wonderfully retro feel to the artwork; a 1920s-type look and feel with round faces, expressive eyes, and long, thin noses with a slight, secret smile.

This one is a cute add to your bedtime story collections, and a nice gift to a parent or caregiver who’s always on the lookout for a bedtime adventure. What better way to send your kids off to dreamland?

(Thanks to illustrator Alison Jay for putting open book shots on her Facebook page!)

Posted in Uncategorized

Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow!

As I write this, it’s almost 70 degrees in New York. In November. So what’s left to do when you’ve unpacked all your Fall and Winter clothes? Think SNOW. So, join me in thinking chilly thoughts with some of these books.

How to Build an Elf Trap, by Larissa Juliano, (Oct. 2018, Sourcebooks Jabberwocky), $9.99, ISBN: 9781492663904

Ages 4-8

This fun nonfiction companion to Adam Wallace & Andy Ellerton’s How to Catch an Elf (2016) is all about STEAM for the holidays! Learn how to build 12 elf traps this Christmas, and take your pick of 12 bonus Christmas activities! Projects tend to run fairly simple, with most of the materials being found around the house. The projects encourage you to experiment with materials, too: swap things out! Add things! Take each construction and make it your own! Difficulty is measured in candy canes (1 for easy, 2 for intermediate, 3 for difficult) and Elf Appeal (how it will appeal to the elves you’re trying to nab). Projects are laid out step by step, with photos to guide you along, and digital artwork adds a fun flavor to the festivities. There are STEAM connections that explain how each project connects to science, and Did You Know? facts boxes add some fun Christmas facts throughout. Make an Elf Door, stick some tea light snowmen on your fridge (or locker), and get to work on your Elf Snatcher 500 while you snack on a Reindeer Cupcake.

Librarians and educators: PROGRAM IN A BOOK. This, my friends, is your December STEAM programming, right here!

One Snowy Day, by Diana Murray/Illustrated by Diana Toledano, (Oct. 2018, Sourcebooks Jabberwocky), $17.99, ISBN: 9781492645863

Ages 3-7

Two siblings enjoy a snowy day in this rhyming counting story! The story begins, as the best ones do, with a snowfall, while two children of color sleep snug in their beds – until their ONE pup wakes them up! The kids rise and shine, play with the pup and eat their breakfast, then it’s time to go out and play, as sister and brother meet their SIX friends for some winter fun and games. The text is light and fun, counting everything from a pup to ten snowballs – and then we count backwards, from nine buttons on a snowman’s chest to one sleepy puppy at the end of the day. The children are a multicultural group, and the detail on their clothes and the scenery itself is breathtaking. The mixed media artwork brings winter scenery to life, from sweaters with intricate Fair Isle designs, and beautifully detailed snowflakes. One Snowy Day pairs up nicely with other snowy day books and makes a nice winter concept book for your shelves.

Holiday Heroes Save Christmas, by Adam Wallace/Illustrated by Shane Clester, (Oct. 2018, Sourcebooks Jabberwocky), $10.99, ISBN: 9781492669708

Ages 4-7

Sourcebooks is rocking the Christmas picture books! This is the latest book by How to Catch… series author Adam Wallace, and this time, Santa needs help from his fellow holiday heroes! Santa’s too sick to deliver Christmas presents, so it’s up to the Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy, Witch, and Leprechaun to save Christmas – but they’re not so great at this Christmas thing. The Tooth Fairy is hiding presents under pillows, and the Leprechaun is taking spare change from the houses they visit. Santa’s got to step in, but is it too late? Is Christmas done for? C’mon, you know it’s not. The gang gets their act together after a quick pep talk from Santa, and each hero plays to his or her strengths to make Christmas amazing! This is a fun story about teamwork, and a laugh out loud comedy of errors. (Psst… if you want to screen the movie, Rise of the Guardians, you can compare the heroes in the book versus the ones in the movie.) The digital art is bright, kid-friendly, and cartoony; end papers offer brief character descriptions of Santa and the gang. The book is set up with graphic novel-type panels and word balloons, so you can offer this one to your fledgling graphic novel readers to get them in the holiday spirit. This one’s a fun take on the “Santa needs help!” story theme, and should go over pretty well in libraries (and as a stocking stuffer).

Once Upon a Snowstorm, by Richard Johnson, (Nov. 2018, Faber & Faber), $16.95, ISBN: 978-0-5713-3928-0

Ages 2-7

A boy and his father go into the woods to hunt, and are separated during a snowstorm. The boy is rescued by a group of animals, who care for him and befriend him. When the bear in the group takes the boy back through the snow to find his father, Dad is grateful, and befriends the animals, too.

The art says it all in this stunning, wordless story. As father and son head into the woods, the snow comes down in the shapes of woodland animals: deer, foxes, hares, ethereal in their delicacy and beauty. Lost, the boy sleeps, shivering, under velvet skies with constellations creating animal shapes around him. When the animals accept the boy into their group, they dance, feast, and paint on cave walls; at that moment, the boy remembers his father and how desperately he misses him (Mom is present only in old family photos hanging in the home), signaling to his new friend, Bear, that it’s time to find Dad. At the story’s end, father and son enjoy a spring day, sitting on a hill with their animal friends.

The artwork alternates between panels and full bleed pages and is dreamlike in its subdued beauty. The endpapers bookend the story, with driving snow on the front papers, and a cave painting of the boy, his father, and the animals, playing together, on the back papers. The artwork is soft, and goes from the cold outdoor artwork to warm interiors both in the family home and in the company of the animals.

I love this book, and can’t wait to share it with my little readers, so I can hear their stories. This one’s a wonderful add to your winter collections – booktalk this one with Raymond Briggs’ wordless classic, The Snowman.