It was hard to narrow the list down to ten books; I was fortunate to read so many stellar picture books this past month. I decided to highlight non-Canadian books in this post and will do another post highlighting Canadian authors and illustrators later. So here they are in alphabetical order.
The Boy and the Gorilla
Author: Jackie Azúa Kramer
Illustrations: Cindy Derby
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Release Date: Oct. 13/20
It’s such a difficult topic to deal with, but Jackie Azúa Kramer has given us a gift that will help our readers dealing with death and grief. On the day of his mother’s funeral, a gorilla comes to ease the boy’s pain and answer the questions he has, unable to talk with his father. The gorilla patiently answers the boy in a straight forward compassionate manner and stays at his side until he can speak to his father. Once the boy and the father share their grief and memories, the gorilla no longer needed, quietly slips away. The language of the answers is soft-spoken and sensitive- “Where did mom go? No one knows for sure.” I am becoming a big fan of Cindy Derby’s talents as I discover more and more of her work (Outside In and Too Many Birds), and this book is no exception. The muted tones and the use of watercolours create the grief-stricken and then hopeful mood.
Dinosaur Lady: The Daring Discoveries of Mary Anning, the First Palaeontologist
Author & Illustrator: Linda Skeers & Marta Álvarez Miguéns
Publisher: First Second
Release Date: July 7/20
Readers will learn a great deal about Mary Anning, who was fascinated by fossils and bones and made several contributions to the science now known as Palaeontology. I love a biography that shares how women overcame being in a male dominated science and becomes recognized and appreciated for her knowledge, dedication and discoveries. Back matter includes Bone Bits and Fossil Facts, a timeline of her life and an author’s note.
Donut Feed the Squirrels
Author: Mika Song
Publisher: Random House Graphics
Release Date: Sept. 29/20
Early graphic novel series are hard to come by but, this series will be an excellent addition and fit alongside Elephant and Piggie, Jan Thomas’s Giggle Gang, and Mo Willems Elephant and Piggie Like Reading companion books. I laughed out loud reading this new graphic novel and know other young will enjoy it over and over again. Nora and Belly, two squirrel friends, have to make alternate plans when their breakfast pancakes get burnt. When they figure out the delicious smell is donuts from the donut truck, they know what they want for breakfast. However, when they go to order, instead of receiving a donut, they get sprayed with water. Now the game is on, and these two will stop at nothing to get their breakfast. With great supporting characters and easy to follow graphic panels and a sense of fun and humour, I look forward to reading the next book Apple of My Pie.
Evelyn del Rey is Moving Away
Author Meg Medina
Illustrator: Sonia Sanchez
Release Date: Sept. 8/20
Moving is hard, and Meg Medina beautifully captures a friendship that is going to change. What I appreciated about this story is the reality of the move right there – boxes, moving trucks, parents loading things up in the car. It’s right there in our faces, and yet we know these two girls will stand the test of time because of the things they did together. Ms. Medina shares with readers the memories between these two friends with her words. “…Evelyn’s mirror, with the stickers around the edge, her easel for painting on rainy days and the sofa that we bounce on to get to the moon.” The move is taking place in the fall, associated with death, yet the vibrant colour palette depicted is full of light, energy and optimism. We all should be so lucky to have a friendship like Evelyn del Rey and Daniela.
Frankenstein Doesn’t Wear Earmuffs
Author John Loren
Publisher: Harper Collins
Release Date: July 21/20
Ever had to don on a parka and winter boots for Halloween? If so, you are going to love this story and sadly relate to this a little too much. A little boy is getting ready for Halloween and dressing up as Frankenstein. However, his parents are concerned that the weather is not going to cooperate, and so every time he is ready to leave, they add something else to wear to keep him warm. Bundled up so much that no one can tell what his awesome costume is, he shouts the book’s namesake, shedding the extra layers and leaves. Once out and about, he realizes that perhaps it is a bit chilly and slushy wishing perhaps, he had some of the items his parents wanted to give him. When he meets up with his friends, he sees that they all have warm clothes and gear his parents initially wanted him to wear. Right on cue, the boy’s parents show up with all the gear, and everyone has a wonderful Halloween. Told in rhyme, this will be a cold-weather favourite, and I could relate to both perspectives.
The Invisible Alphabet
Author: Joshua David Stein
Illustrator: Ron Barrett
Publisher: Rise X Penguin Workshop
Release Date: Sept. 22/20
A twist on the alphabet book, this book will provide loads of discussion and is worth adding to your collections. This version uses letters of the alphabet, creating words to talk about all the things we do not see, just missed or waiting to see. Examples include; L is for Lost, with a missing sock, and W is for Whiteout looking out into a blizzard. I love this new twist and perspective to look at the alphabet. Illustrations leave a lot of white space to emphasize the empty or invisible space.
Love is Powerful
Author: Heather Dean Brewer
Illustrator: LeUyen Pham
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Release Date: Sept. 8/20
Based on the real-life experience of 6-year-old Mari, this is the story of a young girl who makes signs and participates in the 2017 Women’s March with her mom. Once there amongst thousands of people, she begins to chant what she has written on her sign Love is Powerful. To her amazement, others join in until the crowd is chanting, “Love is Powerful!” What a positive message for young readers to find about the influence they can have on adults. Vibrant illustrations depict the upbeat mood and the diversity of the crowd, ensuring that all readers will be able to see themselves in the book.
Me and Mama
Author: Cozbi A. Cabrera
Publisher: Denene Millner Books/Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers
Release Date: Aug. 26/20
The illustrations alone by Ms. Cabrera make this book worth having on display – and yes, it needs to be front and center so readers can take in the two-page spreads of a little girl and her mama spending a rainy day together. Told from the little girl’s perspective, readers spend the day with them as the rest of her family sleep. The two of them will take Max the dog out for a walk in the rain, but before they can do this, they need to get ready. Here is where we see the little girl share the similarities and differences between herself and her mama. Right from the endpapers depicting big and little objects, you get the sense that there is a special bond behind the pairing, and the story is about to unfold. A beautiful celebration of mothers and daughters expressing the love between them during an ordinary rainy day reminding us, any day can create memories that will last a lifetime.
A Polar Bear in the Snow
Author: Mac Barnett
Art by: Shawn Harris
Release Date: Oct. 13/20
With a sparse number of words and incredible art, this is going to be a popular book released just in time for the winter snuggly reads. True to Mr. Barrett’s writing style, there is a surprise or two for the reader to appreciate. The art in this book is a star as well; using cut paper and ink is stunning. The opening page is textured white paper -no sign of a polar bear until the following pages where the nose and then the eyes appear. The author invites the reader to speculate where the polar bear is going and then proceeds to take us where he goes with an ending that promotes discussion and my favourite cut paper page leaving us almost as we started the book.
You are a Beautiful Beginning
Author: Nina Laden
Illustrator: Kelsey Garrity-Riley
Publisher: Roaring Brook
Release Date: Aug. 25/20
A simple but powerful poem reminds readers of the simple ways of leading a beautiful life. Three friends spend the day together, being present with one another and working together to build a community around them. A reaffirming message to love yourself while serving the community, real or imaginary. Warm illustrations that are playful and whimsical, there are lots of layers to this book and wondrous things to find on closer inspection.
There you have it – a variety of picture books from my month of reading. In the future, I am hoping to shift gears a bit and have a theme around the picture books read. Are there any themes you would suggest?