Monday, December 26, 2016

The Blue Hour

Coming 2/20/2017
ISBN: 978-0-8028-5488-9
42 Pages
 9" x 12.75"
Ages 4 to 8

I've heard that the color blue, across all cultures, is the last color to be defined. Could that be because it is all around us in so many different hues? 

Isabelle Simler's The Blue Hour is a gorgeous study of blue in its many natural manifestations. Front pages are lined with dots of cerulean, periwinkle, cyan, and many other hues. Spreads are devoted to blue birds, sea creatures, foxes, frogs, a snake, insects, flowers, and mountains against a twilight sky. 

"Little blue herons stand motionless…blue monkeys go quiet…" The serene tempo makes The Blue Hour a tranquil bedtime book, even as the ocean and jungles are full of menace and mystery. The last spread shows a full moon with many of the same animals silhouetted against a starry indigo (or is that navy?). A world map at the back shows where each animal lives, making it perfect for older readers wanting more information. 

I received an F&G of The Blue Hour courtesy of Eerdmans. To see a beautiful display of Isabelle Simler's work, visit

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

The Queen of the Frogs

The Queen of the Frogs is a once upon a time story reminiscent of an Aesop fable (albeit, one without a clear moral).

The story begins with a gathering of frogs enjoying life at a leisurely pace, spending "their days doing froggy things" and singing together every evening—groak, grak, groak. 

Marco Soma uses an earthy palette to create a world with pleasing details. His illustrations joyfully elaborate on Davide Cali's story, showing household objects and textiles not mentioned in the text. These frogs write at cafe tables, play musical instruments, and wear stylish plaid caps and bowties. Side tables with Tiffany style lamps float on lily pads. 

The frogs have an understanding of human behavior. When one finds a crown and puts it on her head, the others shout, "Long live the queen!"

But the queen proceeds to do what all queens do—give orders. Illustrations show her being measured for a new dress, and relaxing in a chair with her feet up. Soon her subjects complain and ask why they must catch flies for her. They miss their unhurried evenings by the pond. 

Then a diving tournament is organized for the queen's entertainment. When she is asked to make the final and highest dive (is it a trick?) she executes it beautifully. But when she returns to the water's surface and asks, "Was it the best dive ever?" her audience is silent. 

I won't spoil the ending, or say more, except that the crown is returned to its rightful owner—deftly visible in a silhouette reflected on the water. And all the frogs live happily ever after, catching their own flies and singing their favorite song together on summer evenings—groak, grak, groak.

Davide Caliillustration by Marco Soma

Coming  3/20/2017    36 pages   
Ages 4 to 9     ISBN: 978-0-8028-5481-038 

Monday, October 31, 2016

"I love you complexly like our national story."

Kane Miller Picture Books
Author: Lynn Parrish Sutton
Illustrator: Melanie Hope Greenberg
Age: 3-7 years 
Size: 9 1/2 x 9 1/2
Pages: 30
Copyright: 2016

Written in rhyme, with a quirky use of adverbs for every "I love you," AMERICANLY is a lullaby about the United States.

The sunny illustrations of popular landmarks (the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Bellagio fountains) invite close inspection. Thick pages with rounded corners—like a board book—make AMERICANLY perfect for toddlers.

America is experiencing such a divisive presidential election that reading this cozy book about the entire country made me a little emotional. 
This picture book road trip could not have come at a better time. 

Happy Halloween!

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

A new story by Beatrix Potter

"Quentin Blake, best known for his work with Roald Dahl, has illustrated the story, to be published in September."  

Video from

Thursday, October 22, 2015

“The Dog That Nino Didn’t Have”

“The Dog That Nino Didn’t Have” is unsettling and odd. Nino (a boy of about seven) has an imaginary dog, depicted in sketchy lines over the landscape. The pet crawls alongside Nino as they stalk a scruffy cat, then he leaps on Great-Grandma’s lap. When Nino takes a rowboat out on the lake, the dog dives into the deep water.  

Nino’s father (a pilot) phones from faraway, and the dog hears what Nino hears, and loves “the taste of salt water” in the boy's tears. The mother and great-grandmother are pictured, but you don’t see their faces. This enforces the disquieting feel of the book, as does the untidy, retro, lakeside yard. The A-frame house, 1960s station wagon, and toys are drawn with impressionistic looseness. The illustration style resembles silkscreen with its limited earth toned pallet. The world is handsome, mysterious and unanchored.

Nino is shown digging a muddy hole with his imaginary friend, and the text reads, “Sometimes the dog acted so crazy and dumb that people started to notice.” His mother’s back is turned. But presumably she notices Nino’s feelings, for on the following page there is a big gift box—Nino has been given a real dog (a lively terrier). 

But this is not the end. Rather it’s the beginning of a new and bigger fantasy life. A make-believe deer, giraffe, hippo, rhino, bear, zebra, and “a few more dogs!” ward off loneliness and add richness not found in reality. Closing with a powerfully atmospheric scene of the boy dreaming under a full moon, “The Dog That Nino Didn’t Have” is not your typical happy ending story.
HARDCOVER; Published: 10/8/2015
ISBN: 978-0-8028-5451-3
34 Pages
Ages 4 to 8

Friday, October 09, 2015

Thursday, October 08, 2015


Jonathan Bentley has written and illustrated a playful picture book about a toddler who wishes to be big, like his older brother. The boy imagines what it might be like to have "big legs like a giraffe," "big hands like a gorilla," and a "big mouth like a crocodile," and finds that there are strategic advantages to being little.

The images of the large animals are both dramatic and comic. The pictures, created with “watercolors, pencils, and scanned textures,” are loose and lively. This is a fast, fun read aloud.

jpeg from

Eerdmans, William B. Publishing Company
Publication date:

Age Range:                          3 - 7 

Saturday, September 26, 2015


Originally published in Dutch, MIKIS AND THE DONKEY takes place on the Greek island of Corfu. Mikis, a boy of about eight, often visits his grandparents on the hill. 

One day his grandfather surprises him with a donkey. To Mikis, Tsaki the donkey is a friend. But to his grandfather she is a “tractor with four legs.” 

The grandfather piles firewood so high in Tsaki's baskets, that her belly is cut by the weight. Mikis and the village doctor force the grandfather to change the cold-hearted way in which he thinks about the donkey.

(spoiler alert)
When Mikis and his friend Elena take Tsaki to meet another donkey, the two donkeys get along “really, really well.” 

Mikis spends his summer vacation making a new stable for Tsaki. But the donkey refuses to enter her new home until her foal is placed inside.

Sketchy brown on ivory drawings depict the countryside, village square, classroom, and funny old faces. The loopy, loose lines are both detailed and airy.

Short chapters and colorful characters make this an easy read. The relationships—between family members, between the sweet/vulnerable teacher and her students, and between villagers—are distinctive and ring true. Love and understanding win out.

HARDCOVER; Published: 10/6/2014
89 Pages
Ages 8 to 12
To see more of Philip Hopman's work visit


Thursday, September 10, 2015

Thursday, September 03, 2015

City Atlas

Illustrated by the wonderful German artist Martin Haake, 'City Atlas'  takes us on a delightful tour of 30 international cities with Haake's inimitably stylish and witty maps. Written by Georgia Cherry and published by Wide Eyed Editions... 

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Free Period Press

What's hot in the publishing world this minute? Coloring books for all ages, and here are a few fun ones from Free Period Press. Full of patterns, scrummy flowers (by Caty Zocco) and animals ('Creative Creatures' by illustrator Melanie Mikecz), and they've also created sets of colorable prints, produced on thicker paper. Teachers can download a free PDF for the classroom, too. Check it all out here

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Friday, August 07, 2015

Tuesday, June 02, 2015