If I Could Drive, Mama by Cari Best; illustrated by Simone ShinFrom the outside it may look like a plain cardboard box, but to creative young Charlie, it’s “the zippiest car in the whole world!” After hopping behind the wheel and picking up Mama, Charlie cruises through town (their house), stopping at the library (bookshelves), construction site (sandbox), nail salon (bathroom), as well as many other destinations. Charlie’s directions to his patient Mama (“I say…And you say...”) will ring true for anyone who’s played pretend with a preschooler, while the homey, soft-edged illustrations enhance this “wonderful tribute to an imagination in perpetual motion” (Publishers Weekly).
Goodnight Everyone by Chris HaughtonAs the sun sinks below the forest treeline, all of the animals are sleepy…except for one wide-awake bear cub. As the little bear pesters the mice, deer, and various other creatures, readers are treated to a series of increasingly drowsy yawns, as well as a sneak peek at how different animals get ready for bed. Using soothing words and careful visual transitions -- the animals are shown from small to large, and the jewel-toned illustrations shift from warm daytime colors into cool, dusky hues -- this ultra-stylized picture book offers an unusual take on the traditional bedtime story.
Good Morning, City by Pat Kiernan; illustrated by Pascal CampionThe book opens before the sun has come up: "It’s dark and quiet. The moon still glimmers in the sky." The city, however, is stirring -- bakers, garbage collectors, and other early-morning risers are already at work, and they're soon joined by joggers, ferry captains, dog-walkers, and a flood of commuters. By the time the little girl protagonist of the story wakes up to the sun on her face, her city is already bright and bustling. Peppered with onomatopoeia and filled with a realistically diverse cast of city-dwellers, this upbeat read (written by New York City morning news anchor Pat Kiernan) pairs nicely with Erica Silverman's Wake Up, City!
How to Find a Fox by Nilah MagruderToting her backpack and camera, an eager young girl shares not only her determination to spot a red fox, but also her handy how-to tips. "Find a fox hole," she instructs, "Any fox hole will do. The best foxes are at home when you visit." This particular fox, however, cleverly evades the girl at every step. Though readers can see that the fox is much closer than expected, the girl begins to get frustrated -- until the fox decides to find her. With a cartoony style reminiscent of TV's Dora the Explorer, this debut picture book is a perfect pick for young naturalists.
The Cat from Hunger Mountain by Ed YoungIn his towering pagoda, a wealthy cat lord lives high above his subjects, wearing fine clothes and carelessly throwing away half of his food. Yet when a drought strikes and none of the lord's finery can make food grow, he is forced to confront his past actions in a surprising way. With its layers of meaning, this fable may serve as a jumping-off point for talking about wealth and gratitude with children, but what makes it truly memorable are the illustrations. Caldecott medalist Ed Young's complex, textured cut-paper collage art invites attention and interpretation, making The Cat from Hunger Mountain "a feast for the eyes, mind, and soul" (Kirkus Reviews).
One Today by Richard Blanco; illustrated by Dav PilkeyFrom dawn till dusk, the rays of the sun touch all kinds of people as they go about their daily lives. Amid this bustling crowd, young readers can track one family and their cat across the pages of luminous, jewel-toned illustrations. (Older kids may be interested to note that the art is by Dav Pilkey of Captain Underpants fame.) Originally written for the inauguration of U.S. President Barack Obama, this graceful poem-turned-picture book features American points of reference, but its message of inclusiveness and hope will resonate with readers worldwide.
Looking at Lincoln by Maira KalmanFearlessly quirky author and illustrator Maira Kalman has made a book about Abraham Lincoln that is probably not like any others you may have read. Instead of presenting a specific story from Lincoln's life or providing a textbook-style biography, she creates a character (a girl) who becomes fascinated with the 16th U.S. president and learns everything she can about him. The girl isn't bashful about her emotions, either -- she really loves Lincoln and asks herself all kinds of questions about him. With bright, fun illustrations and a casual feel, Looking at Lincoln is a sweet story about making personal connections with historical figures.
President Squid by Aaron Reynolds; illustrated by Sara VaronWith many-armed abandon, a hot pink squid throws himself into a presidential campaign. He's sure he's right for the job: he's famous, he lives in a big house, he's loud and bossy ("Hey Jellyfish! Comb your tentacles! You look terrible!"), and he even wears a necktie! It takes one of the smallest voters under the sea to point out that perhaps Squid might add "helping people" to the list of presidential qualities. Though Squid utterly fails to learn a valuable lesson, his over-the-top antics may prompt giggling kids to chime in with their own ideas about leadership. Those looking for another comical animal candidate may enjoy Doreen Cronin's Duck for President.
Madam President by Lane SmithIn this witty book, a little girl imagines that she is President of the United States. After making an executive order for "more waffles, please," Madam President dons a smart pantsuit and makes her way through a busy day of photo ops, treaty negotiation (between a baffled cat and dog), vigorous veto-ing, and a "press conference" (her oral report). This chief executive's cabinet is populated with toy box residents -- Ms. Piggy Bank is Secretary of the Treasury, for example -- in just one of the many visual gags that complement the book's tongue-in-cheek formal text. For further presidential picture books, try Kelly DiPucchio's Grace for President or Catherine Stier's If I Ran for President.
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