Updated: Aug 25, 2021
Happy Friday! It's been a busy week full of some great reads, old and new. On the adult side, I finished Nina George's The Little Paris Bookshop. It was not what I expected, and the early pages felt slow and too far off what I wanted from the book, but I don't close a book lightly, and I'm glad I kept going. Though not the book I anticipated, I greatly enjoyed it, and I do so want a book barge and a literary apothecary of my own. There is much to treasure in George's words.
To the rest, my five-year-old Quinn was feeling out of sorts last night so we curled up in bed early. He didn't feel like reading, so I read to him. I meant to just introduce him to Magic Treehouse and read a little of the first book, Dinosaurs Before Dark, but he was engrossed, even more than the previous two younglings, and so, we read the entire book! If you haven't read Magic Treehouse books, keep in mind that they're for littles. Don't read them with an adult's discernment. No, we don't want to encourage kids to approach dinosaurs (or other presently living animals that might eat them) recklessly, but it's meant to be a fun, engaging adventure with a healthy dose of interesting information to expand their curiosity. Most of Mary Pope Osborne's series succeeds in that regard. I've found that they make a great way to segue young listeners and emergent readers from picture books to chapter books. Even my ten-year-old, who has listened to me read them and read them on her own, couldn't resist curling up to listen again.
Onward! (Good movie, if you haven't seen it.) We read so many great picture books, it's hard to narrow down which ones to feature, but I'll try.
First up, a new favorite bedtime read-aloud has to be The Snatchabook by Helen Docherty and Thomas Docherty for its delightful, well-crafted rhyming narrative and the gorgeously soft, perfect for bedtime, whimsical illustrations. (Okay, I'm biased. I love any book with woodland tree homes because I instantly want to jump through the page and move in. See inside spread below!) But the kids loved this one, too, and it was fun to read. I gave it four stars on Goodreads because I felt the ending/point was a little incomplete, but I can let that go for the rest of it.
Next up is Usha and the Big Digger by Amitha Jagannath Knight and Sandhya Prabhat from Charlesbridge's Storytelling Math collection. This one had me at "big digger," because, I mean, who wouldn't love that play on words? The concept lives up to the promise. Two sisters and a cousin each see something a little different in the stars ... based on their different perspectives. Diversity, math and science concepts, sibling banter and lovely, bright illustrations (plus multiple attempts to get cartwheels right!) make this a great read, especially for bedtime.
In biographical picture books, I have one that I couldn't wait to get my hands on, and it didn't disappoint: Kafka and the Doll by Larissa Theule and Rebecca Green. This book takes a slice of Kafka's life and tells a wonderful story about the powerful, positive effect that one person (who takes a little time and gives a little thought) can have on another. The fact that it's based on a true story gives it added oomph perhaps, but it makes for a wonderful tale, real or imagined. In our busy world, it's a nice reminder to us "grown-up" gatekeepers what a difference we can make when we stop, listen and pay attention ... and put in some creative effort.
Okay, here comes another book about which I'm biased because I love anything Mars and Mars rovers, AND this one makes me think of a dear friend (and former roomie) who works on the rovers and gets to live on Mars time when they land and had a young son during the most recent landing of Perseverance. A nod (and a hug) to Dr. Kimberly Lichtenberg Maxwell, her family, and the rest of the JPL team. Oh, the book! Night Night, Curiosity by Brianna Caplan Sayres and Ryan O'Rourke overlays one young space explorer's bedtime with the adventures of the Curiosity rover (and a special appearance by Mom). It's a must read for space enthusiasts, and just fun whether or not you enjoy space themes.
And if you want to know more about Curiosity, check out:
What about Perseverance?
We're also partial to jazz around here, and we stumbled on a jazzy picture book we hadn't read yet: Jazz on A Saturday Night by Leo Dillon and Diane Dillon. Get your groove on with bold illustrations and rhythmic text introducing the likes of Miles Davis, Charlie Parker and Ella Fitzgerald.
The next two books by Gaia Cornwall take a look at the real-life struggles of an ordinary kid. Jabari Jumps and Jabari Tries feature a boy working to overcome fear and frustration in familiar circumstances, and serve as excellent inspiration for a different kind of home-grown perseverance. Also, I love Cornwall's illustrations, especially in the inventive second book!
And then, there's Beatrice Bottomwell, The Girl Who Never Made Mistakes by Mark Pett and Gary Rubinstein about a girl with high expectations and a perfect track record ... and what happens when (you guessed it) she stumbles, just like we all do.
Last but not least, a story about unexpected things in unexpected places: Read a Book with Me
by Lawrence Schimel and Thiago Lopes. Lovely illustrations tell a gentle story about overcoming our assumptions, and again, about the difference a little time and attention can make.
Whoops! Almost forgot one. Remember what I said about woodsy homes? I have another for you! I think I've said before that I don't always gravitate as much toward sweet books, but this one got me. It's sweet but also clever, and I just can't resist wandering the fairy tale forest with Fern and Otto: A Picture Book Story about Two Best Friends by Stephanie Graegin. Reminiscent of Frog and Toad friendship stories, it has some funny twists that lead to a satisfying ending as Otto strives to make an adventure of the day for him and Fern and succeeds even as he thinks he fails. The story reminds me of a saying I can't quite recollect and place about the company being the most important part of the journey ...