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 Middle Grade, Non-fiction, picture books, Tween Reads

Musicians, poets, activists: When Paul Met Artie

Simon and Garfunkel are two of the most famous names in music history. The names of their songs are less titles now, more legends: The Sound of Silence; Bridge Over Troubled Water; The Boxer… think of one, and you immediately find yourself closing your eyes and listening to the haunting melodies, the perfect union of the two singers’ voices.

When Paul Met Artie: The Story of Simon & Garfunkel, by G. Neri/Illustrated by David Litchfield,
(March 2018, Candlewick), $17.99, ISBN: 9780763681746
Recommended for readers 8-12

How else could the story of Simon & Garfunkel be told, but in verse? G. Neri, whose books Chess Rumble, Tru & Nelle, and Ghetto Cowboy combine free verse with prose storytelling, shines here, giving readers the rise, fall, and rise of the duo, beginning with their 1981 reunion concert in Central Park, then tracing their lives together from the beginning, as two boys in Queens who discover their love of music and their voices together. Each spread is a different song title, evoking a different period in their lives: “My Little Town” describes the Queens neighborhood where they grew up; “Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream” looks at their early success as Tom & Jerry. “Bleecker Street” looks at Paul’s life in Greenwich Village, and Art’s in Berkeley, where they both discover folk singers and activism; “Bookends” sees the two in a car, on New Year’s Day, 1966, listening to their number-one song, “The Sound of Silence”, on the radio. There’s an Afterword, discography, bibliography, and Musical Connections section, a chronological timeline of song influences.

G. Neri manages to fit a lifetime – into 48 pages. We learn that Paul Simon loves baseball and Art Garfunkel was going to be a math teacher; we discover that they were famous and potential has-beens by age 18; that they dreamed of making it big, and when fame failed them, wanted to just make music for the sake of making music. The digital artwork captures the Kew Gardens, Queens, neighborhoods as easily as it captures a small street in Paris, and the crowd at Central Park. This isn’t a picture book for beginning readers; it’s a beautifully illustrated volume of a moment in music history, in verse.

I’m a Queens girl, and you can’t be from Queens (or be a Queens College graduate) without Simon & Garfunkel being part of your DNA. My eldest went to the same high school as the duo; there’s an auditorium named for Art Garfunkel when you walk in the door. Reading When Paul Met Artie took me on a wonderful trip back to a Queens that I remember as a little girl, when I’d sit in the backseat of my uncle’s car as he listened to Simon & Garfunkel on the radio. Music fans and those of us who grew up listening to Simon & Garfunkel’s music will love this beautiful book.