Ducks have always entertained us, and in these three new books featuring our avian friends, the reader encounters more feathers, more webbed feet, and even more quacking! Duck Sock Hop, by Jane Kohuth, illustrated by Jane Porter, is a musical, rhyming cacophony. The ducks of various colors and varieties (fancifully patterned in ways never seen in the wild) come together in their love of fancy socks and energetic dancing. When their socks begin to unravel from overuse, it’s not a problem, as the Duck Sock Shop is just down the road to obtain new footwear. This will soon become a story time favorite.
For children just starting to read, the Katy Duck series is a good place to begin. Her latest adventure, Katy Duck Makes a Friend, features Katy needing a new partner to dance with when it’s time for her little brother to nap. Fortunately Katy’s new dog neighbor Ralph soon appears, but his interests don’t initially match Katy’s. Henry Cole’s sweet illustrations of duck and dog in motion make this entry in the series likely to be as popular as the previous installments.
A newly popular concept is the hybrid fiction/nonfiction picture book. Not all are successful, but Nicola Davies’ Just Ducks! works beautifully. Mallards, often the first wild ducks children recognize, are featured. The story of a young girl viewing and noting the habits of a duck pair is counterpointed (in a different font) with notable facts about mallards and ducks in general. Salvatore Rubbino’s soft watercolors portray the ducks accessibly and accurately. Particularly well-illustrated and amusing are the renderings of the mallards in a favorite position: heads underwater, tails up!
In addition to being man’s best friend, dogs make natural picture book protagonists. A number of newly published works explore the comic side of canine life.
Irish designer and illustrator Chris Haughton’s Oh No, George! follows a long-schnozzed pup as he comes face to face with temptations (like an uncovered cake and the dirt in the flower pot) when his owner goes out for the day. George hopes he’ll be good, but can he overcome his instincts? Rendered in charmingly simple, boldly colored digital and pencil illustrations with the repeating question “What will George do?” and the refrain “Oh No, George!”, this humorous tale has the makings of a favorite read aloud.
Zorro Gets an Outfit marks the return of a favorite picture book pug. Here Zorro’s owner comes home with a hooded cape for him to wear. Wearing the outfit makes him resemble his heroic masked namesake, Zorro. The poor pug is embarrassed by this get-up, and sadly all the dogs in the neighborhood taunt him on his afternoon walk. However, a new outfit-wearing dog soon arrives at the park, causing Zorro to have a change of heart. Author-illustrator Carter Goodrich’s talent with watercolor brings personality and humor galore to all characters involved, especially Zorro and his housemate Mr. Bud. Fans of their introductory adventure, Say Hello to Zorro! will be thrilled to welcome them back.
Little Lily has always wanted a dog. Imagine her joy when she spies a four-legged, wet-nosed furry creature digging through the garbage can in her back yard. She christens him Doggy, throwing her scarf around his neck to act as a leash. Expect youngest readers to squeal with delight as the pages turn in Silly Doggy!, and Lily continues to treat the big brown bear as if he were a dog. Adam Stower does a superb job matching humorous illustrations with simple text as the story winds down to a poignant conclusion. A surprise twist at the very end may find you laughing out loud.
Share the love of gardening with the little ones in your life. These two books have wonderful stories and really great seasonal gardening tips!
Plant a seed with Molly’s Organic Farm, by Carol L. Malnor and Trina L. Hunne. Based on the true story of a little homeless cat named Molly, who uses her five senses to explore the farm and lead the reader through each page as she assists the farmers in her own special way. After a season, Molly becomes the farm favorite and a permanent fixture, finally finding her forever home. This charming book follows a planting, growing, and harvest season and makes interesting the many details of running an organic farm. Lively watercolor illustrations show the many facets of farming, including close up details of gardens, vegetables, insects, and Molly.
Good things take time in Grandpa’s Garden, written by Stella Fry and illustrated by Sheila Moxley. “Is it spring, Grandpa? Can we begin?” asked Billy. The days are still short and the light is sharp like lemon juice. But here and there green spears have pierced the soil… So begins the growing season for Billy and his grandpa. All year long the pair work on preparing the soil, planting seeds, and tending their crops. Then they wait. Waiting is hard, but the pair are rewarded with a happy harvest and enjoying the fruits of their labor. Soft, colorful illustrations full of detail combine with a beautifully descriptive story. Included are instructions for planning your own vegetable patch, and seasonal preparations for each step of the planting process, from beginning to end.
Take these three new titles with you on your next family trip! Enjoy your vacation and keep everyone occupied with these colorful picture books all in rhyme.
Salt water, sand, games, rides, and summer treats--what could be better than a day at the beach? Kids and families will look through At the Boardwalk by Kelly Ramsdell again and again. A snapshot of a summer’s day on the boards, these lively, colorful, and very detailed cartoon-style pencil drawings, by illustrator Monica Armino, depict a myriad of memories and familiar, happy scenes, with different people of all ages. Simply worded in a rhyming style, you can almost hear the carousel and taste the cotton candy!
Dini Dinosaur, by Karen Beaumont and illustrated by Daniel Roode, is the perfect companion for downtime or a rainy day, and makes bath time and bedtime for toddlers much more fun! After a long day of play, Dini needs a little help with his bath and washing behind his horns. Playful, rhyming repetition will delight kids as little Dini starts his bath will all his dirty clothes on and finally ends up in the dinosaur buff, all squeaky clean. Bright, graphic illustrations show Dini after a whole day of messy play, and after coming clean, give him a sweet, sleepy send-off to little dinosaur dreams.
A bird, a cat, a fish, and a dog each imagine their perfect day with baby in Baby, Come Away, by Victoria Adler. Baby and his friends share a cup of tea in a tip-top tree, a sneak to the creek with pitter-patter feet, a romp and a roll in a puddle-filled hole, and more, until bed time comes with a kiss good night and baby can dream, dream, dream to his heart’s delight. Gentle, pastel illustrations by David Walker show adorable images of a fanciful day of play, and the sweet rhymes are a happy way to lull baby off to sleep.
Ree Drummond is a successful blogger, Food Network star, and author. Her down-home comfort foods have really struck a chord with readers and cooks from all walks of life. Drummond’s success began with her blog The Pioneer Woman, which has a legion of followers, receiving 24 million hits monthly. The blog covers her family life on an Oklahoma cattle ranch, her efforts to homeschool her children, and of course, cooking. The recipes are delicious and easy to follow, and readers love that Drummond illustrates them with step-by-step photos.
It seemed like a natural transition for Drummond to publish cookbooks. Her most recent, The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Food from My Frontier, is filled with tasty recipes color photos, and Drummond’s anecdotes and comments. You’ll want to try the recipes for yourself when you see her homemade glazed doughnuts, cowgirl quiche, and “Knock You Naked” brownies! The book quickly became a bestseller, and there are now more than 480,000 copies in print.
Drummond recently started filming the second season of her Food Network show “The Pioneer Woman”. Like her blog, the show features her life on the ranch, her family, and her favorite recipes. Viewers will also be interested to know that she has published a picture book called Charlie the Ranch Dog that features her family’s beloved basset hound.
It’s not all about the recipes, though. To learn more about Drummond’s life, try her memoir Black Heels to Tractor Wheels: A Love Story, which tells the story of how she met her husband Ladd Drummond who she affectionately calls Marlboro Man in the book and her blog. Ree originally planned to go on to law school, but everything changed when she met Ladd. She shocked her family by marrying him and moving to the ranch. The rest, as they say, is history.
Backyard beekeeping continues to rise in popularity and two recent children’s titles spotlight these buzzy critters and their importance to our world. In UnBEElievables by Douglas Florian, this award-winning poet of the natural world offers 14 lively poems. The subjects of his verses range from bee anatomy, to the different types of bees, to the collapse of bee colonies in recent years. He uses his trademark wordplay and puns, but also manages to sneak some information into the poems as well. A paragraph offering further explanation follows each verse and the illustrations bring the words to life. Working in gouache, colored pencils, and collage on paper bags, Florian captures the essence of the world of bees. This is a fun and visually appealing book that comes complete with a BEEbliography.
In her children’s debut, Lela Nargi shares the story of Fred from Brooklyn in The Honeybee Man. Every morning, Fred climbs to his rooftop and greets his beloved bees, “Good morning, my bees, my darlings!" His honeybees travel across Brooklyn searching for flowers all day and return with nectar to store in their wax rooms. At the right time, Fred makes honey which the entire neighborhood enjoys. This beautifully written story accompanied by Kyrsten Brooker's collage-style illustrations offers an inside look at the life of a sweet beekeeper and the honey-making process. An afterword of "amazing facts" explains more about apiarists, bees' life cycles, and more. Even the endpapers provide a learning opportunity with labeled diagrams of bees and beekeeping materials. This is an unusual glimpse of beekeeping in an urban setting inspired by two neighbors in Nargi’s New York community.
You don’t have to be familiar with artist René Magritte’s work to appreciate Magritte’s Marvelous Hat by D.B. Johnson. His homage to Magritte is a wonderful introduction to surreal artwork for the preschool to elementary school set. In this book, with all canine characters, Magritte is a painter who buys a magical hat that floats just above his head. The hat stays with Magritte as he heads home and is inspired to paint his best work ever. He has fun with his hat, playing hide and seek and walking through the park. When he starts painting day and night, the hat feels neglected and runs away.
The story is charming, but it is the illustrations that will wow the reader. Inspired by Magritte’s surreal paintings, the book is filled with references to his greatest works. Readers will be tickled to look into the fish market and see an ocean with fish clouds above. Did you notice that it is raining under the umbrella? Does the reflection in the mirror seem “off”? Johnson includes four transparent overlay pages that further delight. With its bright, bold illustrations, Magritte’s Marvelous Hat is a visual treat for any age. Take your time, and let your young reader really absorb the artwork. They’ll have fun picking out what’s wrong(?) and maybe they’ll ask for a book about Magritte's art!
Mo Willems delivers his first Pigeon book in four years with The Duckling Gets a Cookie!?, and it’s worth the wait. When the Duckling asks politely for a cookie and gets one, the Pigeon is SHOCKED! True to form, Pigeon falls into a major tantrum and lists all of the things that have been unfairly denied him: driving the bus, hot-dog parties, a walrus, one more story, and even his own iceberg. The Pigeon's rant is quickly terminated when the Duckling generously offers him the treat. (In a funny twist, by book’s end, the Duckling’s motives will be revealed to be less than pure.) As Pigeon moves from apoplectic to apologetic, he is almost speechless.
Simple text within balloons and animated illustrations highlight the story and mark Willems’ popular brand of storytelling. This is a fun read-aloud and an excellent way to introduce topics of manners and politeness. While the Pigeon may not get the point, young readers and listeners will. This is a fabulous and funny addition to the Pigeon stories. The legion of Pigeon fans will be delighted and new fans will be looking to catch up on all of the Pigeon’s previous antics. Be sure to have plenty of cookies on hand for this treat!
Willems maintains an active online presence, and www.pigeonpresents.com is a treasure trove for kids and grown-ups with games, teacher’s guides, and event planning ideas. Also available for iPad and iPhone is Don’t Let the Pigeon Run This App. It allows children and adults to participate even more in the Pigeon’s stories, and includes an interactive Mad Lib and a Draw with Mo feature. And the Pigeon tweets! Become a follower on Twitter @The_Pigeon.
Maurice Sendak, beloved children’s book author and illustrator, died Tuesday as the result of complications from a recent stroke. A prolific creator of picture books that have become part of the American psyche, Sendak is perhaps most widely remembered for his groundbreaking classic, Where the Wild Things Are, which delved into the imagination of young Max, escaping from punishment in his room to a land populated by monsters who welcome chaos. Sendak was awarded the Caldecott medal in 1964 for this groundbreaking book.
His career began as an illustrator of others' work, most notably the Little Bear series by Else Holmelund Minarik. Sendak’s carefully detailed, expressive animal characters are an integral part of the success of those titles, beginning with the original Little Bear in 1957. Still popular with children today, Sendak’s illustrations were brought to life as an animated series.
Sendak’s most recent picture book, Bumble-Ardy, was the first both written and illustrated by him since 1981. Bumble-Ardy began life as an original "Sesame Street" animated segment, also by Sendak, centering around a nine year-old pig who had never been given a birthday party. According to the storyteller of the book, “Bumble-Ardy had no party when he turned one (his immediate family frowned on fun).” He decides to make up for this grievous neglect by throwing his own raucous event (which quickly gets out of hand) at his aunt’s house while she’s away. Like most of Sendak’s work, this acknowledges a dark side to childhood.
Visit a Baltimore County Public Library branch to explore more of this beloved author’s body of work.
Take a break from technology with three charming stories full of simple, yet wonderful elements, where kids are encouraged to experience nature and explore their imaginations.
In Baby Bear Sees Blue, a curious bear cub and his mother spend the day from morning to night, exploring nature and its many colors. The rustic, brightly colored images have a vintage feel and beautiful details. Similar to woodcuts, the illustrations are made from images carved on linoleum blocks, then black ink applied to print outlines of scenes. The outlines are then hand-colored with watercolor. The simple, yet lyrical, language leads the reader through Baby Bear’s world as he experiences the warmth of the yellow sun, the tickle of an orange butterfly, the delicious smell of red strawberries, and the boom of gray thunder, ending in a beautiful, colorful surprise. This book is a nice way to learn about colors and nature together.
Remember your imaginary friend? Billy loves bears, especially his enormous friend, My Bear Griz. Griz is, of course, short for grizzly bear, and the two explore the simple joys of childhood – playing hide and seek, looking at stars, sharing secrets, and more. The story develops slowly through homey, unaffected line drawings using biro (the commonly used British term for pen) and watercolor. Short, simple, wording and white space allows imagination to blossom and fill in the pages with new adventures and ideas.
Soft, muted earth colors and gentle illustrations of pencil, pastel, and wash, draw the reader into A House in the Woods, a whimsical story of two little pigs who each build a special home in the forest. While the pigs are out for a walk, Moose and Bear move in. Unfortunately, they are a bit too large and the houses are a bit too small, so the little pigs’ creations are accidentally destroyed. Back to square one, these four unique friends decide to build a new, much bigger home together. They hire a ready team of Beaver Builders, who cheerfully request to be paid in peanut butter sandwiches. Readers can share the process of building the animals’ new forest home and learn about teamwork and the fun of having different kinds of friends.