Rain by Sam Usher


Published by Templar

Summary:  The narrator gets a lesson in patience when he wakes up to a rainy day.  He is ready to go outside, but hi grandfather insists it’s better to wait until the rain stop.  While Granddad writes letters, his grandson dreams of floating cities and sea monsters.  Finally, the rain has stopped, and Granddad is ready to mail his letters.  On the walk to the mailbox, the two imagine adventures that continue even when the rain picks up again.  At home with warm socks and hot chocolate, the two agree that the best things are worth waiting for.  40 pages; ages 3-7.

Pros:  This follow-up to Sam Usher’s Snow celebrates rainy days, intergenerational relationships, and the power of imagination.  The watercolors are the perfect medium to capture the colors and reflections of a rainy day.

Cons:  Written letters and a mailbox?  What child will recognize those antiquities?

Animal Ark: Celebrating our wild world in poetry and pictures photographs by Joel Sartore, words by Kwame Alexander

Published by National Geographic

Summary:  The National Geographic Photo Ark is a project in which Joel Sartore is photographing every captive species.  Thirty two of these photos are showcased here, along with brief poems by Kwame Alexander.  The photos are close-ups on plain black or white backgrounds.  More animals appear on two sets of pull-out pages, along with their IUCN status indicating how endangered that species is.  Notes from the photographer and the writer give more information about their work, how this book came to be, and what kids can do to help the animals pictured here.  48 pages; ages 4-8.

Pros:  Kids will fall in love with the photographs in this book, and may even be inspired to try writing haikus inspired by them.

Cons:  While Kwame Alexander calls his poetry haikus, and defines haikus as having 17 syllables in the traditional 5-7-5 arrangement, these poems don’t seem to fit the definition.

Willows vs. Wolverines by Alison Cherry

Published by Aladdin

Summary:  Izzy Cervantes is apprehensive about her month at Camp Foxtail, even though her best friend Mackenzie is going with her.  Things seem a lot different from Camp Sweetwater, where Izzy has been a leader for the past several summers.  For one thing, she and Mackenzie are put in different cabins.  But she’s excited to learn that her cabin, the Willows, has a traditional prank war with the Wolverines, one of the boys’ cabins.  At Camp Sweetwater, Izzy was known as a prank queen, but the other Willows, all Foxtail veterans, don’t seem interested in her ideas.  So Izzy invents an older brother, Tomas, claiming he was a Wolverine and a pranking champion.  She pulls off a pranking victory, and finds herself in the middle of a popular group of Willows.  But their friendship comes with a price, and Izzy can’t understand why Mackenzie is acting so cool toward her.  By the end of the month, Izzy has learned a lot about friendship, telling the truth, and herself.  352 pages; grades 3-7.

Pros:  A highly readable summer book, filled with a host of diverse characters, and a narrator whose voice rings true.  Readers will be ready to sign up for summer camp after reading about the activities and hijinks and Camp Foxtail.

Cons:  There are a lot of characters to keep track of.

Be Quiet! by Ryan T. Higgins

Published by Disney-Hyperion

Summary:  Rupert the mouse has the brilliant idea to write a wordless picture book.  His friends Nibbs and Thistle want to help, but the can’t stop talking about the book.  And that means words.  They have other ideas, like about what makes a “strong” illustration (it involves lots of bicep flexing), and what characters to have in it (a strong, silent bear; a cute kitten; a cucumber?).  Finally, Rupert is so frustrated, he lets loose with a page full of words, venting to his two friends.  They inform him that he needs to be quiet in a wordless book, and he storms off in a huff.  40 pages; ages 3-6.

Pros:  Sure to be a hit at storytime, this is purely silliness, told mostly through the cartoon dialogue of the three mice.  Kids who enjoy this will also want to try Higgins’ previous book, Hotel Bruce, that introduces Rupert, Thistle, and Nibbs.

Cons:  I love wordless picture books.

And Then Comes Summer by Tom Brenner, illustrated by Jaime Kim

Published by Candlewick

Summary:  The sights, smells, and sounds of summer vacation are celebrated, starting with the cookie crumbs and eraser bits cleaned out of a cubby and end-of-year hugs given on the last day of school.  Then it’s time to enjoy the Fourth of July with a parade down Main Street and fireworks at night.  Small pleasures are savored, like the ice cream truck, evening games of hide-and-seek, and lemonade stands.  When the weather gets too hot, it’s time to head out to the lake for some swimming and camping.  The family snuggles down in the tent on the last page, planning the next day’s adventure.  32 pages; ages 4-8.

Pros:  The brilliant acrylic paintings and cute kids will draw readers in to this happy celebration of a favorite time of year.

Cons:  Many readers will have a very different experience of summer than the idyllic, lazy-days-at-home one pictured here.

Walk With Me by Jairo Buitrago, translated by Elisa Amado, illustrated by Rafael Yockteng

Published by Groundwood Books

Summary:  A girl asks a lion to accompany her on the way home from school.  As bystanders scream and faint, she bravely walks down the street, to the sitter’s house to pick up her younger brother, to the “store that won’t give us credit anymore”, and home to cook dinner and wait for their mother to come back from working at the factory.  As night falls, she gives the lion permission to return to the hills, “but then come back when I call”.  She, her mother, and brother all fall asleep in a single bed, a cracked wall above their heads.  The final page shows a framed photo of the whole family, including a father whose bushy blond hair resembles a lion’s mane.  35 pages; ages 4-10.

Pros:  Readers will need to study the pictures to figure out what is happening in this deceptively simple story.  Is the lion real or imaginary?  There are Spanish words in the pictures…where does this story take place?  Kids will empathize with the narrator and a life that forces her to grow up quickly.

Cons:  It felt like the text might have been more poetic in the original Spanish.  Something may have gotten lost in the translation.