Last week was memorable on the picture book front…new books to recommend during the upcoming holiday season and even a few to add to my list of go-to books for story time! I ordered each book based on strong reviews and/or the author’s proven track record, but I didn’t expect to love them as much as I do…
Madame Martine by Sarah Brazen
The story of a lonely woman who finds a little dog that changes her life is not new. There are many children’s books about the life altering qualities of cute dogs and cats, but Brannen’s book is a genuinely lovely and affecting story of how our lives are enriched by love. “Madame Martine lived alone in a little apartment in Paris. She took the same walk every day. She shopped at the same stores. She wore the same coat. That was how she liked it.” (The opening lines immediately brought to mind another of my favorite books, Somebody Loves You, Mr. Hatch by Eileen Spinelli – which, if you don’t know, add it to your list.)
One thing Madame Martine has decided is that the Eiffel Tower is a tourist trap. “She had never climbed it.” But then she meets a “small, very wet, very dirty dog.” It’s a familiar story, but the payoff is worth it. I’ll just tell you that Madame Martine does finally visit the Eiffel Tower and the two-page spread of the view from the top view is breathtaking. I also love how the colors get brighter (check out Mr. Hatch!) as Madame Martine’s heart opens to the little dog.
Uni the Unicorn by Amy Krouse Rosenthal
Like Madame Martine, Amy Rosenthal’s new book is about the power of friendship. This book will make my unicorn-loving readers very happy. Looking at the book right now, I am anticipating the waiting list drama that will accompany putting this book on display tomorrow morning. What is it about unicorns? I think it’s a new thing – I don’t remember friends with this obsession when I was younger, but I’m asked at least once a day for a unicorn story and the choices are limited. The cover makes me think of Mary Blair, the Disney artist who drew pictures of Peter Pan and Alice in Wonderland – and illustrated the Little Golden Book, I Can Fly by Ruth Krauss. Not surprisingly, the illustrator of Uni the Unicorn, Brigette Barrager, spent time working for both Pixar and Disney.
As always, Rosenthal is so whimsical and clever. Among other books, she is the author of Spoon and Exclamation Mark, two guaranteed crowd pleasers. The story centers on Uni, a unicorn who believes “that little girls were Real.” The other unicorns laugh at him (a la Rudolph) and make him play unicorn games on his own. But Uni knows the truth! He imagines all the fun he and a little girl could have together: “They would spin and twirl in the sunlight.” And they would “explore, and help forest creatures in need.” Of course, there is a little girl whose also paying the social cost of believing in things others don’t understand. There’s a happy ending for the new friends in this bright and colorful book about finding a new friend.
Five Trucks by Brian Floca
Whenever I’m on a plane that’s sitting on the runway, I’m always mesmerized by all of the trucks driving around the plane. As I look out the little window, I’m usually speculating about the lives of the people driving those trucks and checking to see if my luggage is on the belt, but I sometimes wonder what’s happening down there. Brian Floca’s new picture book, Five Trucks, answers those questions in a fun and engaging way. This is the perfect book for the preschool-age truck lover in your life.
Floca is the author and illustrator of the 2014 Caldecott Award-winning-book, Locomotive, as well as Moonshot and Lightship. Five Trucks is for a much younger audience than those masterful books, but it’s a good gateway to Floca’s transportation-centered collection. The story begins on the title page as a boy and his father carry a heavy plaid suitcase into the airport and then the action turns to the “five drivers for five trucks.” The following pages convey what all of those trucks are doing, but there’s another story to follow – watch the plaid suitcase! As a side note, I noticed the drivers are drinking coffee from Dunkin Donuts.
Who’s Next Door? by Mayuko Kasher
A charming and funny story – with a bit of a mystery – for young readers. Chicken, the main character who lives in the house with a red roof, knows he has a new neighbor, but can’t figure out why he never sees any activity in the blue house.” All day long, Chicken paces back and forth in front of the house with the blue roof. But no one comes out.” Kids, however, will get what’s going on pretty quickly. I’ll just tell you there’s a perfectly logical reason Chicken isn’t running into his neighbor more often, but after the mystery is solved, the two new friends come up with an ingenious plan to stay in touch.
Pair Who’s Next Door? with Marla Frazee’s Boot and Shoe, another story about things getting all mixed up!