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    MAXIMILLIAN VILLAINOUS
    Written by Margaret Chiu Greanias

    Illustrated by Lesley Breen Withrow
    (Running Press; $16.99, Ages 4-8)

    &

    THE REMEMBER BALLOONS
    Written by Jessie Oliveros

    Illustrated by Dana Wulfekotte
    (Simon and Schuster; $17.99, Ages 5-9)

     

    are reviewed today by Cathy Ballou Mealey.

    cover art from Maximillian Villainous The monster members of Max’s family cannot understand why he is SO good and not at all villainous, as they are. MAXIMILLIAN VILLAINOUS is kind, helpful and constantly scrambling to make amends for his family’s mischievous misdeeds. When Max brings home a bunny, his family decides to offer him the ultimate test. He must complete three devious, villainous tasks in order to keep his sweet, fluffy and otherwise unsuitable pet.

    Max and bunny do try to tackle their tricky To Do list, but they are too nice! They fail repeatedly and humorously, although they persist in finding creative solutions. Eventually Max begins to despair that he can succeed in behaving badly. Will he be forced to give up his beloved rabbit? With comic antics and heart-tugging earnestness, eager readers will be delighted to discover whether Max and his bunny can uncover a solution that saves the day.

    Withrow’s adorable illustrations are colorful, bright and filled with expression. Max and his family are clearly monsters, adorned with horns, fangs and claws, but they are also incredibly child-friendly, cute and appealing. Clever, whimsical elements are tucked onto every page for young readers to discover. Greanias’ playful dialogue and crisp pacing enhance the odds that MAXIMILLIAN VILLAINOUS will become a read-it-again, monstrous favorite in many homes.

    cover art from The Remember BalloonsIn THE REMEMBER BALLOONS, debut author Oliveros features a three-generation family coping with an elderly grandfather’s memory loss. Using colored balloons to represent treasured memories, each family member carries bunches ranging from small to large. “This one’s my favorite,” says the young boy narrator as he points to a blue balloon. It’s filled with special scenes from his birthday party. “When I look at it I can see the pony again. I can still taste the chocolate frosting.”

    But Grandpa’s balloons are beginning to slip away, one by one, as his memories start to fade. The narrator struggles with sadness and anger as he witnesses his grandfather’s decline, metaphorically paired with the shrinking number of balloons. His helplessness is palpable, as is his deep love for his grandfather. When even a most precious memory of a special fishing trip is lost, the boy’s parents step in to offer consolation. Although it is bittersweet when the boy discovers that the number of his balloons continues to grow, the tale arrives at a comforting and heartwarming conclusion that will satisfy all.

    Wulfekotte’s adept illustrations place detailed vignettes of special memories within a broad spectrum of delicately tinted balloons. The family, in soft, black and white lines and gray shading, is often nestled in close, companionable connection. Settings are simple and understated, allowing the significance of the balloons to hold the focus. Oliveros uses clear, direct language to relay this poignant story in a manner that keeps it accessible for a wide range of readers. THE REMEMBER BALLOONS beautifully expresses the enduring love and importance of family memories in a gracious and meaningful book. Kirkus, starred review

    • Reviewed by Cathy Ballou Mealey

    Where obtained:  I reviewed either an advanced reader’s copy from the publisher or a library edition and received no other compensation. The opinions expressed here are my own.

    The post The Remember Balloons & Maximillian Villainous – Two Heart-filled Books appeared first on Good Reads With Ronna.


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    AN INCONVENIENT ALPHABET:
    BEN FRANKLIN AND NOAH WEBSTER’S SPELLING REVOLUTION
    Written by Beth Anderson
    Illustrated by Elizabeth Baddeley
    (Paula Wiseman Books; $17.99, Ages 4-8)

     

    is reviewed today by Cathy Ballou Mealey.

     

    book cover art from An Inconvenient Alphabet by Beth Anderson

     

           

    Anderson’s debut picture book, AN INCONVENIENT ALPHABET, will resonate with young readers who are in the thick of mastering the spelling oddities of American English. While some may doubt they have anything in common with Noah Webster or Ben Franklin, Anderson makes a convincing case why the two revolutionaries should be lauded for efforts to unite a young America through common spelling and language conventions.

    Writer and printer Benjamin Franklin was frustrated by inconsistent spelling. He tried to simplify the alphabet by removing extraneous letters, but his work did not catch on. Post-Revolution, Noah Webster was also vexed by grammar and pronunciation differences. His solution was the creation of a written guide to American English, but that also did not win public favor.

     

    int spread 1 from An Inconvenient Alphabet

    An Inconvenient Alphabet: Ben Franklin and Noah Webster’s Spelling Revolution written by Beth Anderson with illustrations by Elizabeth Baddeley, Paula Wiseman Books ©2018.

     


    When Franklin and Webster finally met in Philadelphia, their shared interests in reading, writing, language and education sparked a new synergy between them. They agreed that 
    “Using twenty-six letters to write forty-four sounds caused nothing but trouble.” Together they decided to devise a new alphabet in which letters matched sounds and sounds matched letters. 

    Franklin, the elder partner, left young Webster to the task of winning the hearts and minds of Americans to these spelling reforms. It was a long, uphill battle, even for these two accomplished and educated thinkers, to reach their ambitious goal. Yet Webster’s ultimate solution – a dictionary – was successfully published in 1806 with 37,000 entries, laying the groundwork for the spelling and grammar resources we use today. 

     

    int spread 4 from An Inconvenient Alphabet

    An Inconvenient Alphabet: Ben Franklin and Noah Webster’s Spelling Revolution written by Beth Anderson with illustrations by Elizabeth Baddeley, Paula Wiseman Books ©2018.

     

    Anderson’s illuminating text incorporates playful examples of inconvenient homonyms and confusing phonetic spellings that readers will appreciate. Baddeley cleverly energizes the subtle wordplay with colorful block letters that envelop and accost the main characters. Whimsical wallpaper, silly signage and quirky colonial architecture offer bold and brilliant punny details. In addition, charming dog and cat characters, explained in the postscript, provide lighthearted counterpoint to the “two men wearing tights and ponytails” throughout.

    Thoroughly researched and delightfully presented, AN INCONVENIENT ALPHABET is a unique look at a new kind of “revolution” and a lively choice for its approachable introduction to the history of American English.

    • Reviewed by Cathy Ballou Mealey

    Find another #Epic18 review by Cathy here

    Where obtained: I reviewed either an advanced reader’s copy from the publisher or a library edition and received no other compensation. The opinions expressed here are my own.

     

     

    The post Punny, funny history of American English – An Inconvenient Alphabet by Beth Anderson appeared first on Good Reads With Ronna.


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    WE ARE GRATEFUL: OTSALIHELIGA
    Written by Traci Sorell
    Illustrated by Frané Lessac
    (Charlesbridge; $17.99, Ages 3-7)

     

    is reviewed today by Cathy Ballou Mealey.

     

    book cover art from We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga

     

    STARRED REVIEWS – Kirkus, School Library Journal, Shelf Awareness

     

    Sorell’s delightful debut, WE ARE GRATEFUL: OTSALIHELIGA showcases ways that the universal value of gratitude can be expressed through a contemporary Cherokee lens. Using the phrase “Otsaliheliga” (oh-jah-LEE-hay-lee-gah) meaning “We are grateful” as a refrain, the book unfolds throughout the seasons. Measured, lyrical text engages readers with opportunities for gratitude both small and large, drawing upon tradition, nature and family.

    The book opens in fall (uligohvsdi), introducing readers to the Great New Moon Ceremony and the Cherokee New Year through cultural symbols and traditions. Special foods, song and crafts appear to mark seasons and occasions. The refrain “Otsaliheliga” centers the narrative with poetic pause as one explores and celebrates with family and community.

     

    interior artwork from We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga

    Interior spread from We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga written by Traci Sorell with illustrations by Frané Lessac, Charlesbridge ©2018.

     

    Each season is named in Cherokee, presented phonetically and in the Cherokee syllabary. Sorell’s tale builds bridges between old and new, past and present, honoring the legacy of ancestors while anticipating hope and joy for future generations.

    Lessac’s vibrant illustrations are warm and contemporary, incorporating many rich details throughout double-spread community scenes and intimate family gatherings. Her bright gouache is cheerful, resonant with numerous opportunities to expand the gratitude-themed narrative. Text and illustrations blend seamlessly to uplift connections between history and tradition, past, present and future.

     

    interior artwork from We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga

    Interior spread from We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga written by Traci Sorell with illustrations by Frané Lessac, Charlesbridge ©2018.

     

    Sorell’s backmatter includes more information on various ceremonies and observances, a Cherokee syllabary and pronunciation guide. Her author’s note discusses keeping balance between observing the ancestral and ceremonial way of life with demands of the modern, non-Cherokee world. Readers should also note her extensive acknowledgements in the book’s dedication, a true reflection of Sorell’s rich, respectful and authentic work.

     

    interior artwork from We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga

    Interior spread from We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga written by Traci Sorell with illustrations by Frané Lessac, Charlesbridge ©2018.

     

    The final pages – “Every day, every season. Otsaliheliga” – are illustrated with a beautiful composite of fall, winter, spring and summer encircling one tree where people have gathered together in celebration and gratitude. Don’t miss this special book and the chance to embrace its message of thankfulness and appreciation.

    • Reviewed by Cathy Ballou Mealey

     

    Where obtained: I reviewed either an advanced reader’s copy from the publisher or a library edition and received no other compensation. The opinions expressed here are my own.

    Find a teacher’s guide here.

    Listen to Traci We Are Grateful  here.

    See the book trailer here

     

    The post Seasonal and Celebratory – We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga by Traci Sorell appeared first on Good Reads With Ronna.


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    THE DIAMOND AND THE BOY:
    THE CREATION OF DIAMONDS AND THE LIFE OF H. TRACY HALL
    Written by Hannah Holt

    Illustrated by Jay Fleck
    (Balzer & Bray; $17.99, Ages 4-8)

     

    is reviewed today by Cathy Ballou Mealey.

     

    The Diamond and The Boy book cover art

     

    Starred Review – Booklist

    Holt’s debut nonfiction picture book digs deep into family history, introducing readers to natural and industrial diamond creation with an engaging dual narrative structure.

    Cleverly designed, THE DIAMOND AND THE BOY: THE CREATION OF DIAMONDS AND THE LIFE OF H. TRACY HALL is engineered to compare graphite, a common gray rock, and young Tracy Hall, an inventor and the author’s grandfather. Free-form poetry on facing pages invite easy associations between the rock and the boy, subjected to physical and societal pressures respectively, which transform them over time.

    Tension builds naturally through Holt’s lyrical mirrored text. Of the graphite; “Mighty, unyielding, brilliant. The rock would dazzle if it had any light to reflect, but it doesn’t.” She writes of the boy; “Mighty, unyielding, brilliant. His inventions dazzle classmates, But Tracy is still penny poor, with so many ideas floating just out of reach.”

     

    int spread rock boy from The Diamond and The Boy by Hannah Holt

    Interior illustrations from The Diamond and The Boy written by Hannah Holt with artwork by Jay Fleck, Balzer & Bray ©2018.

     

    The tale celebrates Hall’s perseverance and resolve in the face of poverty and bullying. These obstacles ultimately build his resilience as he develops an invention to produce industrial diamonds. For those interested in learning more about diamonds, Holt provides backmatter on the mined diamond industry including the DeBeers monopoly and “blood diamond” conflict in Africa. A timeline and bibliography are also appended.

     

    int artwork small gray meager from The Diamond and The Boy

    Interior illustrations from The Diamond and The Boy written by Hannah Holt with artwork by Jay Fleck, Balzer & Bray ©2018.

     

    Fleck’s color-saturated illustrations are digitally enhanced and multi-layered, keeping the focus squarely on the man and the gem. Clever use of the color palette, alternating between the echoing narratives, helps balance the book visually. The contrast nicely reinforces the natural comparison of Hall’s and the diamond’s transformations. Fleck makes excellent use of angular elements such as the striations of the earth, books shelved in the library, diamond facets and kite strings, while occasional red-orange ‘explosions’ emphasize dramatic changes.

     

    interior artwork from The Diamond and The Boy Waiting

    Interior illustrations from The Diamond and The Boy written by Hannah Holt with artwork by Jay Fleck, Balzer & Bray ©2018.

     

    In THE DIAMOND AND THE BOY, Holt offers a personal and noteworthy celebration of a man deep in substance and character. This book is a different and delightful choice for readers of history, industrial manufacturing, or STEM classroom libraries. The intersection of science and personal character development is a unique and rich format that will engage a variety of readers and potential young inventors.

    Where obtained:  I reviewed either an advanced reader’s copy from the publisher or a library edition and received no other compensation. The opinions expressed here are my own.

    • Reviewed by Cathy Ballou Mealey

    The post The Diamond and The Boy by Hannah Holt appeared first on Good Reads With Ronna.


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    HEDGEHOG NEEDS A HUG
    Written and illustrated by Jen Betton
    (G. P. Putnam’s Sons BYR; $16.99, Ages 4-8)

    &

    TWILIGHT CHANT
    Written by Holly Thompson
    Illustrated by Jen Betton
    (Clarion Books; $17.99, Ages 4-7)

     

    One talented creator’s works grace two new picture books, Hedgehog Needs a Hug and Twilight Chant, featuring wonderful animal illustrations. Both books are reviewed by Cathy Ballou Mealey.

    Hedgehog Needs a Hug cover art by Jen BettonSure, on Instagram every hedgehog looks cute and cuddly. But in this story, woodland friends are fearful of his prickles when HEDGEHOG NEEDS A HUG, the debut author-illustrator title from Jen Betton. Perhaps he got out of his cozy nest the wrong way, but Hedgehog wakes feeling “down in the snout and droopy in the prickles.” Smart and resourceful, he knows just what he needs to feel better. But who will hug Hedgehog? Rabbit and Raccoon refuse, and Turtle won’t even wake up. Then an ominous shadow seeks into the clearing. It’s a fox! He’s not afraid, but should Hedgehog be?

    Betton’s text is smooth and rhythmic with vivid verbs and comforting refrains. Her woodland scenes feature crisp white and lush, deep blue-greens that make creamy-brown Hedgehog pop as the star. Plentiful double spreads and a clever mix of perspectives keep scenes entertaining from one page turn to the next, and expressive animal faces convey emotions without ambiguity. A gentle ending brings comfort and happy closure, plus a new friend who can see beyond Hedgehog’s thorny accoutrements.

     

    Twilight Chant by Holly Thompson cover illustration by Jen BettonBetton also lends her prolific talents to TWILIGHT CHANT, a beautiful and poetic science picture book written by Holly Thompson. Readers follow a family leaving the shore as the sun begins to sink and shift to twilight hours. Thompson’s lyrical text directs attention to the animals that become active at this time of day – the “crepuscular creatures emerge” – with smoothly rhythmic repetition that reads aloud beautifully. As deer graze, swallows skim, foxes sniff and bats swerve, each page turn leads to a new creature and heightens our appreciation of this calm yet intensely busy twilight time

    The illustrations, rich with gold and rose dusky tints, showcase each animal and its setting with both realism and softness across double spread pages. The family wends their way home slowly, tucked in as a careful through-line to emphasize our environmental interconnectedness. The deepening sky colors conclude with purpley nightfall – making this title a perfect, calming bedtime selection. An author’s note clearly explains what twilight is and gives more information about the intriguing animals encountered in the story. A poetic masterpiece infused with subtle science and soothing imagery, TWILIGHT CHANT is one of a kind.

    • Reviewed by Cathy Ballou Mealey

    Find another recent #Epic18 picture book review here.

    Where obtained:  I reviewed either an advanced reader’s copy from the publisher or a library edition and received no other compensation. The opinions expressed here are my own.

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    100 BUGS! A COUNTING BOOK
    Written by Kate Narita
    Illustrated by Suzanne Kaufman
    (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $17.99, Ages 5-7)

    &

    FLYING DEEP:
    Climb Inside Deep-Sea Submersible ALVIN
    Written by Michelle Cusolito
    Illustrated by Nicole Wong
    (Charlesbridge Books, $17.99, Ages 5-9)

     

    are reviewed today by Cathy Ballou Mealey.

     

    Sharpen your math and science observation skills with two new, detail-packed STEM-rich picture books from debut authors.

    100 Bugs: A Counting Book by Kate Narita cover artIn 100 BUGS! A COUNTING BOOK, two young summer explorers aren’t bugged by insects at all. They are on a seek-and-find counting quest from the pond to the field to the forest and everywhere in between. Armed with a butterfly net and magnifying glass, the daring duo discover and count an astonishing variety of interesting insects. Narita employs bouncy repetitive couplets to keep the mathematical and entomological journey moving at a quick pace in increasing sets of ten.

    Kaufman’s bright, colorful collage-style art is engaging and cheerful, adeptly including an impressive accumulation of bugs throughout every page. A beautiful array of wildflowers and plants are also featured, complementing the detailed and intricate insects. Kaufman adds lots of birds and animals as well as an enthusiastic dog who follows the children on their adventures. With so much visual interest, young readers will be captivated. Notes at the end provide additional information on the insects and plants, making this a great STEM book selection. 

    cover art from Flying Deep: Climb Inside Deep-Sea Submersible ALVINIn FLYING DEEP readers will imagine an underwater journey of exploration with the pilots of ALVIN, a deep-sea submersible. Their mission is to observe and analyze creatures and structures from the depths of the ocean floor, and to collect samples for further research at the surface. Cusolito uses a narrative logbook structure, inviting readers to ponder practical and procedural questions as if they are one of the crew members. What might you eat? How will you breathe? What will you see? Exciting discoveries and the possibility of danger raise the stakes for readers who will soak up this immersive science adventure.

    Digital illustrations from Wong enrich this tale with incredible scenes from inside and outside the ALVIN. Realistic details abound, including the amazing variety of sea life and the riveted, technical components of the ALVIN itself. Wong uses light to her advantage, balancing sunlight and ALVIN’s spotlights above and below the ocean surface to focus attention on the stunning discoveries. A glossary, resources for further reading and notes from the author and illustrator round out this unique, informative book.

     

    100 BUGS and FLYING DEEP were both recipients of starred reviews from Kirkus!

            • Reviewed by Cathy Ballou Mealey

    Read another recent #Epic18 review by Cathy here.

    Where obtained: I reviewed either an advanced reader’s copy from the publisher or a library edition and received no other compensation. The opinions expressed here are my own.

    Good Reads With Ronna occasionally provides links to shop at Once Upon a Time bookstore with whom we partner monthly to share a Wednesday What We’re Reading post. GRWR blog and its reviewers receive no compensation for any titles sold via this independent bookstore, but we do hope you’ll choose a local option when making your next purchase.


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    FINN’S FEATHER
    Written by Rachel Noble

     Illustrated by Zoey Abbott
    (Enchanted Lion; $17.95, Ages 4-8)

    &

    STERLING, BEST DOG EVER
    Written and illustrated by Aidan Cassie

    (Farrar, Straus and Giroux BYR; $17.99, Ages 3-6)

     

    are reviewed today by Cathy Ballou Mealey.

     

    A feather. A fork. These things mean more than they seem when viewed through the loving eyes of a family in two new picture books, FINN’S FEATHER and STERLING, BEST DOG EVER from debut authors.

     

    Finn's Feather book cover illustrationFINN’S FEATHER features an upbeat and energetic child who discovers a white feather on his doorstep. He runs to show the new treasure to his mother, explaining that the feather is from his brother, Hamish. His mother responds with a deep breath and a big hug. His teacher’s reaction is likewise muted. But Finn’s friend Lucas understands and shares in his delight. Together they find ways to include the special feather in their playtime.

    With the feather as an equal, adventuresome partner, it is as if Finn’s deceased brother is right beside them, sharing in the delight of a spring day. When Finn finally decides to write a letter to Hamish, he uses the feather as a pen. “I whish you were here,” he writes, and secures his message in a tree branch.

    Abbott’s warm illustrations are clear and soft, setting off the emotional tale with gentle tenderness. Simple and generously spaced, the images leave ample room for Noble’s text to carry deeper meaning. The pastel color palette is attractively textured, drawing readers’ eyes to the ever-present, symbolic feather. This poignant book is ideal for helping children understand the range of complex emotions, grief and happiness, that accompany our experiences of loss and remembrance.

     

    Sterling, Best Dog Ever book cover illustrationIt’s a fork, or a dog, that stars in STERLING, BEST DOG EVER. Although no home has ever wanted to keep Sterling, he is determined to find a family. Outside the Butlery Cutlery Factory, he comes up with a plan to be shipped inside a package of utensils. Sure, he may have to disguise himself as a fork to succeed, but he’s resourceful!

    The Gilbert family is skeptical but accepting of Sterling, and their dog-obsessed daughter is delighted beyond measure. But Sterling’s role is not entirely clear. Did the family want a fork, a dog, or should he try to be a whisk, a rolling pin, or a chandelier? Young readers will giggle at Sterling’s enthusiastic attempts to carve out a place for himself in the new family order.

    Cassie’s illustrations are colorful, humorous and well-paced. Even when attempting to fill-in as an inanimate household item, Sterling is imbued with emotion, expression and energy. His earnest efforts and the girl’s equally passionate yearning to help her “dog-fork” assimilate are heart-tugging and funny at the same time. STERLING is a quirky, clever tale of self-acceptance and love that will hold special appeal for readers with rescue dogs.

    • Reviewed by Cathy Ballou Mealey

    Click here to read another recent review by Cathy.

    Where obtained:  I reviewed either an advanced reader’s copy from the publisher or a library edition and received no other compensation. The opinions expressed here are my own.


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    RICE FROM HEAVEN:
    THE SECRET MISSION
    TO FEED NORTH KOREANS

    Written by Tina Cho
    Illustrated by Keum Jin Song
    (Little Bee; $17.99, Ages 5-9)

    &

    HEY, HEY, HAY!:
    A TALE OF BALES
    AND THE MACHINES THAT MAKE THEM

    Written by Christy Mihaly

    Illustrated by Joe Cepada
    (Holiday House; $17.99, Ages 4-7)

    are reviewed today by Cathy Ballou Mealey.

     

    Grasses and grains make great stories in two new August picture books from Epic18 authors.

    Cover art from Rice From Heaven: The Secret Mission to Feed North KoreansDrawing from her own personal experience, author Tina Cho writes a compelling fictional story about RICE FROM HEAVEN: THE SECRET MISSION TO FEED NORTH KOREANS.

    Yoori, a young South Korean girl, has listened to her father, Appa, talk about his difficult childhood in North Korea. His compelling stories of hardship and hunger lead Yoori and Appa to volunteer for a secret nighttime mission; sending packages of rice over the border via special balloons.

    When father and daughter arrive near the border, local villagers protest and chant, “Don’t feed the enemy.” In dismay Yoori says “The hope in my heart withers like a dying rice stalk.” But she rallies her courage and persists in completing the task at hand. With other volunteers, Yoori and Appa help inflate balloons, attach containers of rice, and send them floating over the border under starry skies.

    Song’s vibrant illustrations markedly differentiate the two countries with a stark color palette. A verdant and lush South Korea features plentiful orange and pink flowers, fruits and green landscapes. Alternately, North Korea is shown isolated within a clear bowl, brown, barren and withered. The dramatic contrast peaks on a poignant double spread showing two North and South Korean girls face one another. While large grey mountains loom in the distance, the two children remain separated by nothing more than a small stream of clear running water.

    Cho provides additional information on the political and cultural history of the Korean peninsula. This informative story is hopeful, compassionate and timely.

     

    cover art from Hey, Hey, Hay!: A Tale of Bales and the Machines That Make ThemIn HEY, HEY, HAY!: A TALE OF BALES AND THE MACHINES THAT MAKE THEM author Christy Mihaly tells a summery story about the process of harvesting hay. The bales will be stored in the barn, ready to break out a bit of summer for a hungry horse on a cold winter day.

    Standing in waist-high, thick green grass that spills across the long, rolling horizon, a young girl and her mother observe that the fields are ready for the haying to begin. “Mower blades slice through the grass. / A new row falls with every pass. / Stalks and stems are scattered ’round. / The scents of new-mown plants abound.” The rhythmic thunk-thunk, chunk-chunk phrases echo the mechanical beats of the machinery employed – a mower, tedder, rake and baler. Mihaly explains the terminology in a helpful glossary of “haymaking words” that add richness to the rhyming farming narrative.

    As the mown hay dries, mother and daughter refresh themselves with switchel, a traditional cold haying drink of ginger, vinegar and maple syrup. For those inspired to try it, the recipe is included! Raking and baling finally lead to the satisfying conclusion of a crop safely stacked in the barn, and time to ride and play with the patiently waiting pony.

    Cepada’s illustrations capture the vast fields, broad skies, and varied haying equipment with detail, vibrancy and color. Green grasses fade to olive-yellows as tinted clouds sweep across the pages. The tractors and barn are a cheerful, traditional red, and the immense rolled hay bales are textured with prickly perfection. Each generously proportioned oil-and acrylic image is paired with succinct and snappy text that explicates and enhances the unique and creative story.

    Good reasons to harvest both of these titles about bounty on your bookshelves!
     

    • Reviewed by Cathy Ballou Mealey

    Where obtained:  I reviewed either an advanced reader’s copy from the publisher or a library edition and received no other compensation. The opinions expressed here are my own.


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    TEACH YOUR GIRAFFE TO SKI
    Written by Viviane Elbee,
    Illustrated by Danni Gowdy
    (Albert Whitman & Company, $16.99, Ages 3-7)

    &

    SCARLET’S MAGIC PAINTBRUSH
    Written by Melissa Stoller 
    Illustrated by Sandie Sonke
    (Spork/Clear Fork Press, $16.99, Ages 3-7)

     

     

    are reviewed today by Cathy Ballou Mealey.

     

    Teach Your Giraffe to Ski.Teach Your Giraffe to Ski book cover illustration Although the chalet is cozy, nothing will deter Giraffe from donning skis and gliding with ease. A cautious child protagonist sticks close by, offering emotional support and practical advice to the novice skier.

    Elbee adeptly mixes humor with tips on safety, etiquette and introductory ski technique. Giraffe grins through the typical goofs and gaffes associated with learning something new. Eager and fearless, Giraffe’s enthusiasm is tempered by the child’s caution and protective concern. Once she’s mastered the basics, they head to The Big Scary Slope! Readers will cling to the edge of their lift seats anticipating a slick, speedy, swerving conclusion to this snowy, sporting tale.

    Gowdy’s cartoon-like illustrations are bright and colorful, incorporating a playful menagerie of unlikely skiers. The gleeful expressions of Giraffe and timid trepidation of the child are counterbalanced between spots and full page spreads. Slipping, sliding and gliding are conveyed via whipping scarf tails, swerving ski trails and exuberant snowy splatters. Whether you are bunny slope bound, black diamond material, or even a lodge loafer, Teach Your Giraffe to Ski is tons of fun.

     

    cover art from Scarlet's Magic PaintbrushCreative determination also threads through Scarlet’s Magic Paintbrush, the story of a young artist who learns to appreciate the power of a hands-on, personal touch. This is a sweet debut book from author Melissa Stoller and illustrator Sandie Sonke.

    Scarlet finds a magic paintbrush that does her bidding, creating fairies, unicorns and princesses that are perfect masterpieces. But losing the magic brush creates a dilemma for Scarlet. After she searches high and low for the magic brush, she tries painting with regular, non-magical brushes. While the results disappoint her, she doesn’t give up. In a clever twist, Stoller makes her protagonist get creative; painting with her left hand, trying a homemade brush and even using her fingers.

    Sonke fills the pages with soft blue clouds and sparkling stars, framing Scarlet and her range of canvases with colorful detail. The magic paintbrush has emotional, animated expressions, and observant readers will enjoy following a faithful pooch that trails Scarlet throughout her artistic quest.

    Scarlet’s Magic Paintbrush is an open invitation for young artists to explore ideas of perfection and frustration when it comes to mastering technique and finding a personal style. The magical paintbrush element will appeal to many, while the celebration of self-expression and creativity ultimately shine as the most important aspect of original work. A perfect book to pair with paint and canvas for budding artists!

     

    • Reviewed by Cathy Ballou Mealey

     

    Where obtained:  I reviewed either an advanced reader’s copy from the publisher or a library edition and received no other compensation. The opinions expressed here are my own.

     

    Find another recent Epic18 debut review here.

    The post Creative Chaos Links Two Terrific Tales – Teach Your Giraffe to Ski and Scarlet’s Magic Paintbrush appeared first on Good Reads With Ronna.


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    A flower in a field. 🌸
    A star in the sky. ✨
    Simple things seen and sensed
    through the eyes of a child
    help them find and define their place in the universe
    in two beautiful new picture books
    from Candlewick Press and Nosy Crow.

     

     

    Stardust book cover art

    STARDUST
    Written by Jeanne Willis
    Illustrated by Briony May Smith
    (Nosy Crow; $16.99, Ages 2-5)

    STARDUST features a thoughtful young girl who tries and tries to shine as brightly as her talented older sister. She cannot knit as well, find a missing ring first, or design the best outfit for the costume competition. When she seeks solace under the starry night sky, her grandfather joins her for a quiet chat. Once there was nothing, he tells her, but after a BANG and a series of twinkles, stars were born. Willis sends the duo off on an imaginary journey to explore the subsequent creation of planets, moons, seas, trees and even, sisters!

    interior spread from Stardust by Jeanne Willis with art by Briony May Smith

    STARDUST. Text copyright © 2018 by Jeanne Willis. Illustrations copyright © 2018 by Briony May Smith. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

     

    Smith’s richly colored illustrations will carry young readers into the fantastical realm to introduce the Big Bang and how all is created from stardust. The tender relationship between the girl and her grandfather is light and sweet but never heavy-handed, leading to a delightful conclusion that reaches decades into the girl’s future.

     

    Stardust by Jeanne Willis with art by Briony May Smith int illustration

    STARDUST. Text copyright © 2018 by Jeanne Willis. Illustrations copyright © 2018 by Briony May Smith. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

     

    The book jacket is generously speckled with silver stars and a shiny title, a bright and cheerful exterior feature that highlights and compliments this book’s encouraging message about being true to yourself.

     

    book cover illustration from The Whole Wide World and Me by Toni YulyTHE WHOLE WIDE WORLD AND ME
    Written and illustrated by Toni Yuly
    (Candlewick; $15.99, Ages 2-5)

    A tiny red ladybug has captured a girl’s attention on the cover of Toni Yuly’s THE WHOLE WIDE WORLD AND ME. Open the book, and the ladybug creeps up a single blade of green grass. Suddenly a bright yellow flower dominates the page, as if from the bug’s perspective. Two boots arrive on scene, signaling the girl’s arrival and her tender exploration of the natural wonders that surround her.

     

    interior illustration from The Whole Wide World and Me by Toni Yuly

    THE WHOLD WIDE WORLD AND ME. Copyright © 2019 by Toni Yuly. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

     

    The simple lyrical text is placed sparingly on the page, pacing the story with a gentle, slow unfurling from land to sea, sky and mountain.

     

    the Whole Wide World and Me by Toni Yuly interior illustration

    THE WHOLD WIDE WORLD AND ME. Copyright © 2019 by Toni Yuly. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

     

    Yuly’s captivating illustrations are a combination of ink, charcoal pencil, torn tissue, cut paper and digital collage. The colors are bold and textured, beautifully conveying the gritty beach, crisp blades of grass, and fuzzy cotton dandelion seeds. “I am a small part of it all,” proclaims the young naturalist, joyously exploring and connecting with the world around her. Readers will be duly inspired to get outdoors and join the fun.

    Starred Review – Kirkus Reviews

     

    • Reviewed by Cathy Ballou Mealey

    Where obtained:  I reviewed either an advanced reader’s copy from the publisher or a library edition and received no other compensation. The opinions expressed here are my own.

     

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