Jun 13, 2021

A Pair of Powerful Picture Books by Kurt Cyrus

 With only a few comments here, I confidently recommend that you read and share these companion counting picture books, both written and illustrated by Kurt Cyrus.

A Christy Ottaviano Book: 2016

The first of this pair, released "all the way back in 2016" is BILLIONS OF BOOKS: A Counting Book About Bricks.

Both books are oversized, with expansive, colorful illustrations that impress with their sweeping scenes and intriguing specificity and detail. Both incorporate lighthearted and lively rhymed text, patterns of progression, topic-related terminology, and splashes of humor and wry twists.

Here are a few excerpts from Indiebound.org:

A Kirkus Best Picture Book of the Year
A JLG Selection
An Oregon Spirit Award Honor Book

"An amazing feat of architecture and artistry that kids will pore over long after the last brick has been laid."--Kirkus Reviewsstarred review

"Rollicking rhymes and elegant artwork should delight playroom block stackers and someday builders and architects alike."-Publishers Weeklystarred review.

A Christy Ottaviano Book: 2016

Now, in 2021, Cyrus is back with TRILLIONS OF TREES: A Counting and Planting Book. This time around the story involves a slip of the tongue, in which an order for trillium is misinterpreted to be "trillions of trees". The outrageous story unfolds with Cyrus's lively text, cleverly incorporated science information, and spreads that impress with relative scale, character inclusion, and concept development.

A leafy surprise awaits on the final turn, as various facts are shared by characters who peek out from among one of those trillion trees.

Again, this satisfying effort paid off with well-deserved praise:

Praise For Trillions Of Trees: A Counting And Planting Book

A Junior Library Guild Selection

This rhyming story playfully melds an often ignored counting concept—a trillion—with the importance of tree planting and preservation, while also introducing a great number of tree species to a young audience. Like Billions of Bricks, the story’s catchy, upbeat vibe reflects hard but necessary work, while the quick pace and energetic rhyme scheme both fascinates and instructs its young listeners about caring for trees. Illustrated with vibrant natural vistas to amplify quick, upbeat rhymes, Cyrus beckons early elementary readers to a newfound sense of the immensity and importance of trees in the world." —School Library JournalStarred Review

For building-block fans, tree-lovers, or anyone who appreciates the fun of a book that captivates while layering in learning, this is the pair for you.  

Jun 7, 2021

OUR SHED: And Other Stories of Bond-Building and Love

Little Bigfoot, An Imprint of Sasquatch Books

OUR SHED: A Father-Daughter Building Story is written by Robert Broder and illustrated by Carrie O'Neill.

From beginning to end, this generation-spanning, project-based relationship  is a delightful template for ways that dads and daughters (okay, could be sons, but this works so well with a daughter) are able to make the most of their time together. Construction projects (not IKEA assembly) offer countless ways to develop understanding of planning, execution, and purpose, all as scaffolding for deep love. With practicality and colorful creativity, this dad-daughter duo work, grow, and change together gracefully and joyfully.

"this sweet parent-child story effectively celebrates hands-on intergenerational 
collaboration."--Publishers Weekly

There is much to enjoy in this simple but sensitive story. It reminds me in some ways of the books by the Pumphrey brothers that I reviewed in an earlier post: THE OLD TRUCK, and THE OLD BOAT. Take a look back, and a look ahead at this new suggestion, won't you?

Jun 6, 2021

Two Titles: Two Different Delightful Days with Dads

I suppose I should save this for Father's Day, but then, I tend to reject herding wonderful books into narrow opportunities like theme months and designated days. So, I'll double down and share TWO remarkably similar yet distinctly different picture books with the identical title: 



First, I AM A BIRD is written by Hope Lim and illustrated by Hyewon Yum. In this case Daddy takes his imaginative daughter to school each day on the back of his bike- or is that a bird perched behind him? She waves her arms and sings out her birdsong, until she spots a certain older woman with a bag and a frown. Her sudden silence signals wariness, until the day when she discovers what is in that bag and finds a kindred spirit. There is much to love about this.

"Each day, a rosy-cheeked girl rides to school in the booster seat on the back of Daddy’s bike, pretending to fly and sing like the many birds in their coastal town... It’s a simple tale for the youngest set of readers, written around an overt message of not judging too quickly and finding connections in unexpected ways... Yum’s soft colored-pencil illustrations complement the words with a pleasant atmosphere, setting the tone through gently bright colors and the simple, smiling features of her characters... A sweetly serene story with a useful lesson."

Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2021

But then...a different  I AM A BIRD is written by David Walrath and illustrated by Jaime Kim.

This story unfolds with minimalist text progression, each short statement leading to a new, interpretive round, always generating exuberant physical demonstrations and interpretations of beach life: 

"I am a bird, I fly. // I am a fly. I land // I am land. I stretch to the sea."

Children will notice the progression and quickly engage with the thought-provoking page turns, gently settling into the  small-hand-friendly spreads of sea, sand, waves, and wonder. 

    From Indiebound:

"Celebrate the bonds between fathers, sons, and nature with this lovely, sun-drenched debut picture book.

I am a bird. I glide
into arms open wide.
I’m the hands that hold
and the eyes that shine…
when it’s you
and it’s me
and the sea.

A boy and his father spend their day at the beach, exploring the shore, the sand, the water, and everything in between. The result is a warm, elegant celebration of nature, connection, and the myriad relationships formed all around us."
There are many similarities between these, but each merits its own attention and celebration of time spent together, of imagination, and of deep emotional connections. Enjoy!

Jun 5, 2021

Hello, Rain! (Sore subject?)


 With droughts continuing on the west coast, and excessive rains continuing in the south, a reflection on rain that reaches wide audiences needs to tread lightly. Even with my own book coming soon that deals with fear of thunderstorms, there is something about rain that deserves celebrations. 

HELLO, RAIN! is exactly that book. Written by Kyo Maclear and illustrated by Chris Turnham, embraces a child's-eye-view of all the things that rain can and should be:

"air full of waiting...

sky full of breeze..."

It's a joyful book you won't want to miss, and I'm not the only one saying so. 

"In text that begs to be shared aloud, evocative figurative language. . . a heaping dose of onomatopoeia. . . and delicious vocabulary. . . vividly animate the thrill of heading outside when 'the sky is an adventure.' The illustrations themselves burst with life, movement, and mirth. Cerulean (for the rain) and yellow (for raincoats) hues enchant. . . . A joyous tribute to the wonders of a rainy day for the pluviophile in all of us."

-Kirkus Reviews, starred reviews

So channel your inner child, or your inner Gene Kelly in SINGIN' IN THE RAIN, and savor every delicious drip and savory syllable of this book.

Picture books are as versatile and diverse as the readers who enjoy them. Join me to explore the wacky, wonderful, challenging and changing world of picture books.