Tag Archives: Kiddie fun

I Know Here and From There to Here by Laurel Croza, illustrated by Matt James

I Know Here and From There to Here

Absolutely no doubt that you could read either of these titles separately and find two engaging standalone stories. But read them together and you’re guaranteed a much more satisfying experience that reveals Kathie’s love of frogs, the significance of “[only] me in grade three” meeting someone “[e]ight, almost nine,” the importance of the sketchbook, and so much more.

I Know Here – a Canadian mega-award winner – captures all that is familiar for a little girl about to move from a nameless “yellow dot” somewhere in Saskatchewan to the big city of Toronto. Her “here” is close to Carrot River where her baby brother was born, and Nipawin from where the family’s groceries get delivered. “Here” is an enclave of 18 trailers, of which her “school is the trailer at the end of the road.” “Here” is where the dam her father is building “will send out electricity far across the prairies,” signaling that “[s]oon we will all be leaving.” What the little girl knows are the forest, the howling wolves, the tobogganing hill, the moose and rabbits on the Pas Trail – and somehow she’ll need to figure out how to take some of “here” to “there.”

Four years after Here, the sequel hits shelves next month. “Here” trades places with “there” when the family arrives in Toronto: “It’s different here, not the same as there,” the little girl narrates. “There” is where her father’s dam stretched across the Saskatchewan River, and “here” is where his next project is a city highway. From a “road without a name,” the family now lives on Birch Street, even though the birches “must be hiding in the backyard behind the fences.” Doors went unlocked there, but not so here. There the aurora borealis “dance[d] just for us”; here the street lamps keep darkness at bay. But best of all, here is something – someone – new: Anne, who knocks on the door to ask if the little girl is “ready” … for new adventures and new friendship.

Author Laurel Croza, whose back flap bio reveals her peripatetic past, uses her own Saskatchewan-to-Toronto childhood relocation as inspiration for both titles. Her co-traveler, artist Matt James, presents a rich, saturated palette to give textured energy to Croza’s memories. His intentionally naive, guileless style captures just the right balance of longing for the familiar, intertwined with the excited anticipation of discovery. Croza and James twice prove the strength of their complementary collaboration, creating a poignant journey both timely and timeless.

Readers: Children

Published: 2010, 2014

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Filed under ..Children/Picture Books, .Fiction, Canadian

Coyote Run by Gaëtan Dorémus

Coyote RunHere’s your oxymoron for the day: wordless books that convey so much.

French illustrator/author Gaëtan Dorémus pays a kid-friendly homage to the American western … with whimsy, ingenuity, and (of course!) chocolate chip cookies. Somewhere in the wild surrounded by red rocks and jaunty saguaros, Coyote watches a tiny friend flying free while he remains behind bars. The sheriff and his somnolent deputies are otherwise distracted, so Coyote grabs the keys and makes for the hills.

The sheriff gives chase, and a mesa-top face-off ensues with the hunter and huntee angrily pointing guns. But Coyote’s tiny ladybug friend appears to distract the enemies, its tiny flights of fancy inspiring foes to become friends. [Yes, getting along can be that simple: just put down the weapons, raise a toast, and roast a meal together!] Alas, peace proves short-lived … until once again, the ladybug rallies to provide quite the Coccinella septempunctata ex machina rescue.

Dorémus’ latest import, which arrives Stateside thanks to delightfully innovative indie press Enchanted Lion Books, is proof-positive that his pictures are worth thousands of words, especially when his artistry is so full of action, humor, and just plain fun (you wouldn’t expect less from someone who, according to his back flap bio, enjoys eating his green tomatoes with cinnamon, right?). Rest assured, nothing gets lost in translation here!

Readers: Children

Published: 2014 (United States)

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Filed under ..Children/Picture Books, .Fiction, European

Numeralia by Jorge Luján, illustrated by Isol, translated by Susan Ouriou

NumeraliaAlphabet and counting books are understandably so predictable as to often be interchangeable in their sameness. ABCs and 123s are really immutable … or are they? To stand out in such a saturated genre is a rare, welcome occurrence – so don’t dare miss the ingenious, utterly unique Numeralia.

Yes, of course, you’ll find the numbers 0 through 10 here. But what you’ll remember most with each numeral is uncountable whimsy and surprising delight. Jorge Luján – an award-winning Mexico City-based author, poet, architect, musician (!) – provides the cleverly layered, uncommon ideas, which Isol – winner of the 2013 Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award (the world’s richest children’s book prize!) – magically, artfully renders on the page. Talk about dynamic duo!

Let’s take “2 is for the duckling who is not so ugly after all”: that purposefully singular ‘ugly duckling’ is actually a small child wearing a silly mask, standing at the front of a boat that gives him that shape similar to his curious aquatic companions; meanwhile the aviary reflections of two ducklings in the water create mirror images of the upside-down numeral 2.

The number 6 also gets reflective representation: “6 for musketeers alongside their reflections” – which makes six figures on the page, in addition to the 6ish promontory in the distance, and the six bubbles the swordfish leaves in his wake.

The best comes last with “10 for a student’s thoughts lost in daydreams”; the corresponding illustration you’ll have to carefully, gratefully explore on your own (no more spoilers!).

Go head, give into curiosity: consider Numeralia as an inspiring investment in your child’s imagination. Learning numbers was never quite this original.

Readers: Children

Published: 2006, 2014 (United States)

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Filed under ..Children/Picture Books, .Fiction, .Translation, Latin American, South American

Socks! by Tania Sohn

Socks!Who doesn’t love the unlimited possibility of socks? Polka dotted, striped, green, yellow, even holey socks add just the right flash of whimsy to perfect any outfit.

If you’re thinking of changing your look, choose either baby socks and daddy socks. Add holiday cheer to your footwear, or turn your anklets into flying gear. For your next performance, choose something long for elephant-trunking or something brightly fanciful for puppet-making. The imaginative little girl – always in motion – keeps her feet well-heeled, and even more so when a sock-ish surprise arrives from her grandmother …

South Korean artist Tania Sohn makes her Stateside debut full of spirited energy and vivid color. The little girl – her spunk adorably embodied in her double pigtails – and her always-ready-to-play kitty companion, are a delightful duo of sock explorers, trying on every pair with gleeful abandon. Captivating story aside, Sohn’s stand-out strength is indubitably in her art: her dynamic illustrations imbue every page with vibrancy, from leaping frogs to curious paws to soaring elephants. Go ahead, grab your bestest socks and jump in.

Readers: Children

Published: 2014 (United States)

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Filed under ..Children/Picture Books, .Fiction, Korean

The Year of the Horse: Tales from the Chinese Zodiac by Oliver Chin, illustrated by Jennifer Wood

Year of the HorseGet ready to ring in the new year … we might know it as 2014, but by the lunar calendar, January 31, 2014 through February 18, 2015 is also the latest Year of the Horse. Thanks to Oliver Chin, founding publisher of San Francisco-based indie press, Immedium, each lunar year gets an energetic, giggle-inducing welcome with his Tales from the Chinese ZodiacHorse marks the ninth installment (already!) in the 12-part series.

Meet Tom and Hannah – gleefully gracing that grand cover – who are new best friends who share quite the sense of adventure. When Tom’s teacher Lao Shi receives a royal summons for a new painting, she’s at a loss as to how she will deliver her art to the capital so far away. Intrepid Tom volunteers, but he can’t possibly go alone! After interviewing many possible companions, the best candidate is none other than Hannah herself. “‘Trust in each other and move as one,’” Lao Shi advises as the pair head off to make their precious delivery.

As she did in The Year of the Dragon and The Year of the Snake, illustrator Jennifer Wood continues to provide the same delightfully equitable page time for all the zodiac animals, adding another engaging level of ‘hide-and-seek’ for younger readers. Author Chin again introduces rollicking exploits to inspire and entertain, all the while celebrating the Asian culture that infuses our daily American lives.

Here’s to a happy, healthy, adventurous new year indeed!

Tidbit: In case you’re wondering about the equine members in your stable … “People born in the Year of the Horse [1918, 1930, 1942, 1954, 1966, 1978, 1990, 2002, 2014, 2026] are energetic and animated. They are proud and love attention. But they can be impatient, hot-blooded, and headstrong. Though they are free spirits, horses are steadfast and resilient companions.” Going on a trip? Make sure to take a Horse along with you!

To check out some of the other Tales from the Chinese Zodiac on BookDragon, click here.

Readers: Children

Published: 2014

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Filed under ..Children/Picture Books, .Fiction, Chinese American

Splash, Anna Hibiscus! by Atinuke, illustrated by Lauren Tobia

Splash, Anna Hibiscus!As gorgeous as the large snowflakes are where I am, just to be contrary, I’m wishing for sun and surf! I can’t remember the last time I went splish-splashing, so clearly I’m overdue! For now, I’ll just have to join Anna Hibiscus on her beckoning blue beach …

“Anna Hibiscus lives in Africa. Amazing Africa,” introduces British Nigerian storyteller Atinuke. In her latest adventure, Anna is “at the beach with her whole family”; although the “laughing waves” are calling, everyone around her seems too busy to test the waters. Her grandparents are reading, her father and uncle are talking to friends, her mother and aunties are busy braiding their hair, even her cousins – with such fabulous names as Benz, Wonderful, Clarity, and Common Sense! – are doing anything but getting wet.

The waves will wait for no one, so Anna decides to go to “Splash!” and “Jump!” and “Hee-hee!” with such glee that her entire family finally realizes it’s high time to share some wavy delights. Anna’s playful joy brings everyone together, because “Anna Hibiscus is amazing too.”

Atinuke, who describes herself as “a traditional oral Nigerian storyteller,” draws on her own bicultural experience of growing up in Africa and England as the child of a Nigerian father and an English mother. She wrote her Anna Hibiscus series, she explains on her website, because “as a story teller … it was clear from children’s questions how little they still knew about the Africa that I am from.” Working together with illustrator Lauren Tobia – whose winsome art is as adept at capturing landscapes of sea, surf, and city, as she is at imbuing each character with charmingly nuanced expressions – Atinuke’s “Amazing Africa” becomes a vibrant celebration of family and home with “amazing” Anna Hibiscus as an adorable multicultural guide.

Readers: Children

Published: 2013


Filed under ..Children/Picture Books, .Fiction, African, British, Hapa

Upside Down: A Vampire Tale by Jess Smart Smiley

Upside DownSince I temporarily seem to find myself in Utah – although I admit it’s not quite as frightening here as I thought it might be, ahem! – I figured this spookfest would not be complete without a Utahn Halloween manga, right? Jess Smart Smiley, who “lives in the bewitching mountains of Utah,” according to his back flap author bio, “ma[de] rad pictures with his bare hands” to create this 2012 graphic novel debut (a case of ‘better late than never’).

Meet vampire Harold: his darling – I mean, scary! – mug haunts the novel’s cover. He’s got quite the candy addiction that causes him to lose his cavity-riddled fangs on the dentist’s tray. Without his sparkling bite, he’s too ashamed to go home to his parents, who happen to live in Professor Adams’ piano, so he decides he might as well hang (upside down) with the neighborhood bats.

Meanwhile, mean-witch Vermillion mistakenly dissolves the rest of her kind, but figures she can live forever if she can just get to Professor Adams’ latest elixir. But thanks to Harold, his batty buddies, flying toads, and wads of used gum, the world is made safe once more … and dear Professor Adams even finds his spellbound soulmate.

For younger readers (and parents) in search of some non-cavity-inducing fun, Upside Down is a sweet, goofy treat to share, in between a limited few lollipops and chocolates. Dr. Eaves, of course, will be waiting with pliers for those who overindulge!

Smiley’s (gotta grin at that fitting name!) charming graphics are made whimsically more “rad,” presented  in “black, white and Halloween green.” That’s right – not a smidge of pumpkin orange in sight (except for a tiny bit of t-shirt on an adorable monster who shares Smiley’s author photo)! Oh, these Utahns are just so renegade!

Readers: Children

Published: 2012

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Filed under ..Children/Picture Books, ..Middle Grade Readers, .Fiction, .Graphic Novel/Manga/Manwha, Nonethnic-specific

Ling & Ting Share a Birthday by Grace Lin

Ling & Ting Share a BirthdayThe inimitable Grace Lin is at it again … she’s managed to create another polka-dotted, plaidly-decorated, toothsome little treat for younger readers. In a wink-wink-nod-nod to her faithful audience, she’s even added a little test at Bumble’s Books on page 11 and page 12. Just how many of those book covers can you name? How many of them are Lin’s, and how many belong to friends and colleagues? Methinks she might be having some literal fun us.

But let this story be told! Yes, Ling and Ting are adorable twins, but as they explained in their 2010 literary debut, they “are not exactly the same”!

Their shared birthday – March 9, in case you were wondering; be sure to watch for all sorts of clues – is a six-part affair. It begins with a gift delivery of “Birthday Shoes” which requires a twinly adjustment, progresses to “Birthday Shopping” at separate stores for the appropriate surprise factor, baking “Birthday Cakes” which emerge with opposite degrees of fluff, sharing “Birthday Wishes” after a candle malfunction, opening the greatly anticipated “Birthday Gifts,” and sharing a “Birthday Story” about Ming and Sing who are not so much like Ling and Ting (thank goodness!).

As the twins’ birthday bash continues page after page, one small detail I noticed was the lack of parents (and friends?). Should I be concerned that we old folks have been written out of the picture? Ah, well, paranoia aside, we can still gleefully revel in the twins’ infectious whimsy!

Readers: Middle Grade

Published: 2013

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Filed under ..Middle Grade Readers, .Fiction, Chinese American

Wait! Wait! by Hatsue Nakawaki, illustrated by Komako Sakai, translated by Yuki Kaneko

Wait! Wait!Clearly, my kiddies grew up too quickly. Wasn’t it just yesterday when I would hear their plaintive “Waaaaaiiiittttt!” on our regular hikes in random places all over the world? One of us old folks would answer with “ketchup,” matched with an indignant “mustard” or – even more clever as they got a little older – “no relish!” Time marches on with guaranteed alacrity!

Wait! Wait! is a nostalgic gift for us old folks, and quite the exciting adventure for the young ‘uns. Artist Komoko Sakai’s whimsical panels are the perfect companion to author Hatsue Nakawaki’s invitingly simple, repetitive prose, with just the right rhythm to keep the youngest readers both engaged and entertained.

A curious toddler explores the world, imploring a butterfly to “Wait! Wait!” only to have it flutter away. “Wait! Wait!” but the salamander “wriggl[es] out of sight,” then the doves fly away, and the kitties dash off. As the excited toddler is just about to give chase once more, she hears someone else’s cry of “Wait! Wait!” as she is hoisted onto her father’s shoulders, head thrown back in delighted laughter, ready for the latest discovery from aloft.

While her too-young legs might still need some training in stability and speed, she has other reliable modes of transportation until she settles into her quickly growing feet. As she examines her world from her comfortable perch, she looks out at the wonders of the expansive world spread out before her, where other children and their parents discover, enjoy, and learn – just as she’s done and will continue to do for many years to come.

That said, parents beware … those years pass in a blink of any eye. Savor those butterflies. Follow those salamanders. Most of all, cuddle those kiddies as much as you can … too soon, we’ll be the ones imploring “Wait! Wait!” as the nest empties out. No relish indeed!

Readers: Children

Published: 2013 (United States)

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Filed under ..Children/Picture Books, .Fiction, .Translation, Japanese

One Gorilla: A Counting Book by Anthony Browne

One GorillaCounting books seem to be a dime a dozen, and some you wouldn’t even pay that much for! How satisfying, then, to discover this priceless One Gorilla.

The concept is simple – it’s a counting book, after all: each bold, sensational double-page spread features a numeral and the corresponding number of various primates, from the titular 1 gorilla to 4 mandrills to 9 colobus monkeys …

But wait … because after the 10 lemurs, creator Anthony Browne inserts his own self-portrait, as he explains, “All primates. / All one family. / All my family …” And when you turn the page once more, he includes “… and yours!” That final spread spectacularly showcases human primates from all over the world, of all skin tones, ages, and even expressions: the shyly smiling woman in chador, the tentative little girl still sporting bed-head, the comical older man with hair so stiff as to resemble a strange helmet, the blonde woman with too much make-up caught with her eyes closed, the wrinkled older woman with thinning hair gazing with deep concern emanating from her aging eyes, and so many more.

You and I could easily step right into the picture; in fact, the partial body at the top right suggests that the human population goes on and on … with all of us welcome and included.

Browne’s One is simply magnificent – all for One, and One for all, indeed!

Readers: Children

Published: 2012, 2013 (United States)

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Filed under ...Absolute Favorites, ..Children/Picture Books, .Fiction, British