British author/illustrator Mini Grey’s beloved superhero action figure and his pet, Scrubbing Brush, are back in the all new summer adventure Traction Man and the Beach Odyssey. A trip to the shore brings new exploration possibilities, new friends, and a new nemesis, Grandma’s overly friendly dog, Truffles.
Traction Man’s landscape is populated by an assortment of googly-eyed sea creatures like anemones and whelks, as well as similarly anthropomorphized picnic foods like sandwich halves and a slice of quiche. Reminiscent of Toy Story’s Buzz Lightyear, Traction Man’s heroic feats take place in the world of his owner, an unnamed young boy. Grey’s humorous illustrations are full of witty details, making this a book that demands multiple reads. The accompanying words tell only part of the larger story.
When Traction Man and Scrubbing Brush are swept down the beach by an errant wave, they find themselves at the sandcastle of Beach Time Brenda and her fashion doll friends. How will Traction Man ever escape the embarrassment of being subjected to a seaweed beard, shell hat, and worst of all, a floral sarong? Help arrives in an unlikely manner, and new alliances are formed. Like the previous titles, Traction Man is Here! and Traction Man Meets Turbo Dog, this new picture book is a paean to the power of old-fashioned imaginative play.
Want to help your child relax, sleep better, and achieve calm and focus? You are a Lion!: and Other Fun Yoga Poses by Taeeun Yoo, is a fun, playful picture book introduction to yoga for the younger set. Yoga for babies and kids has really taken off as more and more folks are discovering the benefits of yoga for the whole family.
Bright, cheerful artwork created with linoleum block prints, pencil drawing, and Photoshop, illustrate easy, fun poses children can relate to. These are accompanied by simple, rhyming instructions. Kids become lions, snakes, butterflies, frogs, dogs and cats as they imitate the gentle poses and movements of familiar creatures. And, unlike eating vegetables, kids will love pretending to leap like a frog and stretch like a dog. Namaste.
The most prolific and talented illustrator in children’s books this year has to be Dan Santat. Known for his comically expressive animals and humans, Santat uses Photoshop to produce illustrations with a graphic designer’s sensibility.
Dog in Charge by K. L. Going features an English bulldog charged with keeping the cats out of trouble while the family is at the store. Five mischievous felines prove too much for our poor hero, who immediately exhausts himself trying to keep up. Retro wallpaper, furnishings, and a muted color palette lend a gentle tone to this madcap tale, full of onomatopoeia like "splash, swish and fwomp". How can this canine ever retain his status as Good, Smart, and Very Best Dog? Santat’s illustrations elevate a good story to an excellent picture book.
Rockin’ heartthrob rooster Elvis Poultry is back in Tammi Sauer’s inspired Bawk & Roll. Marge and Lola, the tailfeather-shakin’ hens from Chicken Dance, have been recruited as Elvis’ backup dancers. But the poor hens haven’t performed anywhere but their home barnyard. Overcome by nerves, they faint! How will they ever overcome their stage fright? Bawk & Roll shows off Santat’s talent when it comes to perspective. On one page it’s as if the reader is part of the packed audience, on another you’re onstage behind Elvis and the girls. And if there were ever an award for best use of light and shadow in a picture book, Bawk & Roll would be a shoo-in.
Fire! ¡Fuego! Brave Bomberos gives the illustrator a chance to play with fire, literally. To illustrate Susan Middleton Elya's rhyming, bilingual story of dedicated firefighters, Santat turned to some traditional ink and watercolor to enhance his usual Photoshop illustrations. He actually set some pages on fire, scanning the images in order to incorporate them into his work. You can visit Santat's blog for photos and a description of the process. Fire! ¡Fuego! Brave Bomberos is a must-read for young fans of firehouse tales.
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!