El Cucuy is Scared, Too!, by Donna Barba Higuera/Illustrated by Juliana Perdomo, (July 2021, Harry Abrams), $17.99, ISBN: 9781419744457
A little boy named Ramón and his cucuy – a bogeyman of sorts in Mexican folklore – are restless and can’t sleep the night before Ramón starts at a new school. They’ve moved to a new town and both are nervous, talking about how they miss their old home. Gradually, Ramón begins to comfort El Cucuy, reassuring him that things will be better. By reassuring El Cucuy, Ramón learns to comfort himself and find his inner strength to embrace his new beginning. With Spanish words sprinkled throughout, and colorful cultural touches throughout the artwork, this is an adorable look into Latinx culture via a gentle story about overcoming fears. El Cucuy is a cute, wide-eyed grey monster with a little black cloak; Ramón is a boy with light-brown skin. Details in the spreads infuse the story with a Latinx cultural background, from the vibrant colors in his bedding, to the artwork on his walls, to the visions of his former home. A definite add to your collections.
Mother Goose of Pudding Lane (A Small Tall Tale), by Chris Raschka/Illustrations by Vladimir Radunsky, (Sept. 2019, Candlewick), $17.99, ISBN: 9780763675233
We’ve all grown up with Mother Goose: usually the British vision of a goose wearing a tall black hat, glasses down on her beak, and a shawl; sometimes, it’s a kindly old woman. But was there a real Mother Goose? Caldeott Medalist Chris Raschka and illustrator Vladimar Radunsky introduce the “real” Mother Goose: Elizabeth Foster, who, in 1692, married Isaac Goose – a widower with 10 children – in Boston and became Mother Goose. She sang songs and made up rhymes for her children (she and Isaac Goose went on to have four more children), which were published at a print shop on Pudding Lane in Boston. Although no copies of the original Mother Goose compilation exist today, we’ve all grown up with adaptations and additions to the legend. Here, Chris Raschka and Vladimir Radunksy recreate some of Mother Goose’s best-known, most beloved pieces while creating new poems and illustrations that recreate the life of Elizabeth Foster Goose, the Mother Goose of Pudding Lane.
Vladimir Radunsky’s playful, colorful gouache and pencil illustrations infuse the story with a sense of fun and joy: animals and people in colonial dress act out some of Mother Goose’s best-known rhymes, like “There Was an Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe”, “Old King Cole”, and “Baa Baa Black Sheep”. The story of Elizabeth and Isaac Goose is told in rhyme throughout, from their courtship to their old age. Endpapers include sketch art of a young Mother Goose in front, and an alphabet rhyme reprint in back.
A sweetly done fictional biography of a beloved figure in children’s literature.
Mother Goose of Pudding Lane has starred reviews from Publisher’s Weekly and Booklist.
Merrow, by Ananda Braxton-Smith, (NOv. 2016, Candlewick), $16.99, ISBN: 9780763679248
Recommended for ages 12+
Twelve year-old Neen Marrey lives with her Aunt Oshag on Carrick Island. Her father drowned and her mother disappeared when she was a baby; now, she and her aunt endure the town gossip – that her mother was a merrow, a mermaid, that returned to the ocean and her father drowned himself trying to reach her. Oshag dismisses the gossip as nonsense, but the myth keeps Neen going; she wants desperately to believe that her mother didn’t just desert her; that maybe even Neen herself has merrow in her, and can reconcile with her mother one day.
Merrow is beautiful and heartbreaking. Braxton-Smith spins a tale that weaves together historical fiction, Celtic folklore, and a coming of age story. Neen and Oshag are both incredibly constructed characters that come alive; characters that you come to ache for. The supporting cast are equally likable and believable, and having such a small group of characters adds to the intimacy of the novel.
This is a gorgeous novel that literary fiction readers, readers of magical realism, realistic fiction, and historical fiction alike will love. Merrow has received four starred reviews: Booklist, Publishers Weekly, Kirkus Reviews, and School Library Journal. Maybe the Printz committee will agree?
Nibbles the Book Monster, by Emma Yarlett (Apr. 2016, Kane Miller), $16.99, ISBN: 978-1-61067-467-6
Recommended for ages 2-6
Nibbles is an adorable little monster. He likes to nibble on everything from clocks to toes, but his favorite thing to nibble on is BOOKS. When Nibbles munches his way out of his box and gets loose, he wreaks havoc on some fairy tales! Can you catch him?
I LOVE this book, and so does my 3 year-old. This book has entered daily storytime rotation, and I’m happy to read it again and again, because it’s so much fun. The rhyming text just begs you to giggle along with it, especially when paired with the adorable, cartoony illustrations (Nibbles hanging on, teeth first, to a swinging clock pendulum never fails to make me crack up). Holes and die-cut flaps throughout the book send you and your readers on an adventure – books within books! – as you pursue Nibbles through Goldilocks and the Three Bears, Little Red Riding Hood, and Jack and the Beanstalk. It’s an exciting romp for little ones, and just when you think Nibbles has been caught… well, let’s hope that there are more Nibbles adventures to come. There are a lot of fairy tales out there, after all!
Highly recommended for children’s collections, and you can pair this with any fairy tale or fun monster book for a great, laugh-out-loud storytime.
Emma Yarlett is a Kate Greenaway award-nominated author and a winner of the English Association Picture Book Prize. Her author webpage showcases her artwork, links to her blog and a shop where you can purchase her books and art prints. You can buy your own plush Nibbles to love and display (maybe not too close to your books) at the Usborne website.
Check out the adorable book trailer!
Nibbles: The Book Monster from Bee Grandinetti on Vimeo.