Niki Marion comes to the Odyssey children's department by way of Boston. She has worked with the Boston Book Festival for almost two years and was an early member of the team that pioneered Hubbub, Boston's children's arts festival that took place this past June. Consequently, she enjoys planning events large and small for the enjoyment of young folks of all ages.
This is not your average robot book for kids. This robot book is also a book about animals, about human nature, about the environment, about forming a community, about creating a family, and most importantly, about finding a home. Brown intersperses his text with the gorgeously graphic illustrations he is known for, and his short chapters pack powerful punches but also lend themselves well to reading aloud. Readers young and old will find themselves desperate for more robot Roz when this book concludes. A+, Peter Brown, A+.
Worm loves Worm, and they want to get married. Thing is, all of their friends have ideas about what Worm and Worm need to get married. Worm and Worm are happy to appease their friends, but they don’t really care if they wear rings, bow ties, veils—Worm and Worm want to get married because Worm loves Worm. This beautifully straightforward picture book celebrates love above all else and demonstrates how easy it is to rewrite “how it’s always been done.”
In addition to being a bang-up depiction of the terrors and troubles of time travel, Once Was a Time also explores the resilient, devoted, physics-defying bonds of best friendship with considerable care and emotional depth. This story resonated with me deeply because I am lucky enough to have a real best friend like Kitty. Most of the time in children's literature, the love that best friends feel for each other is just implied, but in Once Was a Time, it's so palpable and unabashedly honest. Children's literature needs more love stories like Lottie and Kitty's.
Lindy West's voice is one I am truly grateful for in today's media. In her first collection of autobiographical essays, she blends the horrific (an internet troll impersonating her dead father, a constant battery of online rape threats) with a humor and an emotional vibrancy difficult to imagine, never mind present, in those circumstances. Unflinchingly honest about her determined advocacy for fat acceptance, feminism, and many other forms of social justice, Lindy West writes with a laugh-inducing poignancy that will have you joining up to fight under her banner. Read this to lament, laugh, and rejuvenate yourself in equal measure.
Peddles the pig likes to dream big. He has aspirations beyond the "usual pig things" and wishes to behave more like a human. Peddles fixates on one achievable goal, learning how to dance, but our high-reaching hog has some trouble stepping into a pair of red cowboy boots--literally! That is, until he receives some unexpected help. Stanton's humor and artistry shine in her pencil and watercolor vignettes that demonstrate Peddles's differences from his pigmates, and she leaves plenty of white space in each spread, which encourages readers to let their imaginations soar off of the page, just like Peddles does!
An inclusive and affirming snapshot of city life, this picturebook follows CJ and his grandmother as they depart church and take a bus ride to the last stop on Market Street. CJ wishes he could take a car home and avoid the responsibilities at their final destination, but his grandmother shows him the beauty that exists all around him in the city, and especially on the city bus. In one of Robinson’s most evocative and colorful spreads in the book, the music transports CJ into his imagination and gives “him the feeling of magic.” Once CJ and his nana arrive at the soup kitchen at the end of Market Street, CJ realizes how grateful he is to live in the beautiful city, surrounded by all of the delights the city and its inhabitants offer. Robinson’s illustrations allow readers to see the vibrancy of CJ and his grandmother’s city, sometimes even before CJ himself. A gorgeous read.
It seems like all the children's literature powerhouses are teaming up lately, and Imaginary Fred is no exception, with words by Eoin Colfer (of Artemis Fowl fame) and pictures by acclaimed illustrator Oliver Jeffers (The Day the Crayons Quit). Imaginary Fred has been the devoted imaginary friend to many human children, but each time, his more material counterparts grow out of him and Fred begins to dissipate back into the clouds, to await another child to call him into service. When Fred finally finds Sam, he knows he's met someone he can stick with. But when Sam makes another human friend, Sammi, Fred begins to worry that he'll again be dismissed to the wispy clouds. Jeffers highlights the imaginary characters and objects with colored pixelation, an effective tactic to demonstrate such characters' instability. The ending, however, asks readers to questions how insubstantial the imaginary characters truly are.
One of my all-time favorite books and one that I’ve read probably over 50 times. I was always fascinated by L’Engle’s explanation of the science behind tesseracts and tessering, and I loved that hearing Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Which words of wisdom never felt like condescension or prescriptive. Meg was definitely one of my first fictional heroes, and she showed me something fundamental: that it was okay to be flawed and to be a hero, that you can be angry and amazing and multidimensional and full of love and fear all at the same time, and that those layers make you strong. And that is just one of the many epiphanies you can discover by reading this book.
Former Odyssey Children's Department Director, Marika McCoola, crafts a new Baba Yaga tale fit for aspiring heroines of the modern age. If you're not scared of the terrors that lie in the woods or the witches that live in houses set on chicken legs, open up this colorful novel about Masha, a girl who feels disconnected from her father and his new family. She answers an ad in the newspaper to be Baba Yaga's assistant but must complete three seemingly impossible tasks before she gets the job. With help from the memory of her grandmother, a few plucky Matryoshka dolls, and her own fairy and folk tale expertise, Masha approaches each task with wit and confidence. Emily Carroll's signature spindly and spiky style and mastery of color add another dimension of eeriness and emotional vibrancy to McCoola's text. For fans of strong female protagonists, exquisite art, folk tales, and scary stories alike!
Ballet Cat and Sparkles are best friends. Ballet Cat and Sparkles are deciding what game to play. Ballet Cat loves ballet, a LOT. Sparkles wants to do something a little more low-key, but begrudgingly agrees to play ballet, again. Ballet Cat notices that Sparkles is not having a very good time, and asks what's wrong. That's when Sparkles tells Ballet Cat a very secret secret, which shocks Ballet Cat. But Ballet Cat has a secret, too. Bob Shea brings his classic quirky humor alongside warm fuzzies in this fabulous pick for story time. If you like Elephant and Piggie, you'll be best friends with Ballet Cat and Sparkles in no time!
From board book extraordinaire Janik Coat, of Hippopposites fame, strikes again with a great concept book for youngsters. Rhymoceros introduces rhymes in a cheeky and easy-to-decode visual format, accompanied by the words described. By adding variations to the same basic animal shape--one rhinoceros encounters a "shower" while another on the opposite page holds a "flower"--Coat maintains a balance between the predictable and the new clues that help kids visually grasp the rhyming pair. Coat also uses different textures, and young'uns will enjoy exploring the tactile "furry" and squint at the accompanying "blurry." Though its trim size is a bit large for a board book, Rhymoceros still fits into little hands while adeptly explores rhymes that engage the multiple senses of little minds. Ages 3 and under
The Tea Party in the Woods begins very much like the classic tale of Little Red Riding Hood. Kikko sets out to her grandma's house after her father to bring a pie he forgot at home. While trying to catch up to him, she stumbles and crushes the pie. Unhappy but undeterred, Kikko catches up to her father but finds him going into an unfamiliar grand house. Upon peeking inside, she realizes that all the animals of the forest are having a tea party! With the help of some new friends, Kikko finally reaches her destination, but not before she has some fun herself.
Akiko Miyakoshi's textured black and white charcoal illustrations bring a woodsiness and warmth to the story, and the lively pops of yellow for Kikko's hair and red for her hat and skirt help the reader easily identify the heroine and make her connection to Little Red even more apparent. A perfect choice for animal-lovers, tea party-enjoyers, and forest explorers. 3+
Perennially brilliant Grace Lin does not disappoint with her latest installment in her Ling & Ting beginning reader series, perfect for those young readers starting to achieve reading fluency. In straightforward language without contractions, the stories take Ling and Ting through the seasons from summer, into fall, then winter, and finally spring. Ling and Ting bravely experience a summer thunderstorm taking shelter under a colorful patchwork quilt, lose red hats amongst the crimson leaves of fall, accept the responsibility of shoveling snow in the wintertime, and find twin rainbows when spring showers finally arrive. Each story in Ling & Ting: Together in All Weather is printed on a different color pastel paper, making each vignette easy to distinguish from the others and creating a thematically relevant rainbow when viewed together, as Ling and Ting might advise.