What’s Your Favorite Color? by Eric Carle and Friends

Published by Henry Holt

Summary:  As a follow-up to What’s Your Favorite Animal?, Eric Carle and 14 other children’s book illustrators tell what their favorite color is and why.  Carle favors yellow, which should surprise no one familiar with his bright suns.  He also finds it the most challenging color to work with because it can easily become muddy.  Other illustrators cite a hue that evokes a memory or a mood.  Surprisingly, gray is the only color that was chosen twice (by Rafael Lopez and Melissa Sweet, who clarifies that it is “Maine morning gray”).  Each illustrator has created a picture to go with his or her choice.  Uri Shulevitz concludes the collection by choosing all colors.  One color may be lonely, but all together they will have a colorful party! The last two pages have thumbnail photos of each artist as a child, along with a brief biography.  40 pages; ages 4-8.

Pros:  This book could be used in many ways–to introduce illustrators, as an art book, or to prompt kids to write about their own favorite colors.

Cons:  Kids might not appreciate this book as much without some adult guidance.


The Blue Hour by Isabelle Simler

Published by Eerdmans Books for Young Readers

Summary:  Between the end of day and the fall of night is the blue hour.  Blue animals from around the world are shown as they slow down for the night, or start to wake up if they are nocturnal.  A blue fox wanders through the Arctic, while poison dart frogs croak to each other from their water lilies.  Forget-me-nots, bluebells, cornflowers, and violets fill the night air with their fragrance.  As a blue whale surfaces, the last of the blue light fades, and the world moves into darkness.  Front endpapers identify 32 different shades of blue, and the back ones show where all the animals from the book live on a map of the world.  42 pages; ages 4-8.

Pros:  The stunning illustrations, almost all in various shades of blue, are worthy of Caldecott consideration. Combined with the soothing text, they make a perfect bedtime book.

Cons:  It would have been nice to have a little information on the different animals at the end of the book.  What, for example, are vulturine guineafowl?

A Song About Myself: A Poem by John Keats, illustrated by Chris Raschka

Published by Candlewick

Summary:  At the age of 22, John Keats went on a walking tour of Scotland. He wrote a letter to his younger sister describing the trip and included this four-verse nonsense poem about “a naughty boy” who travels “to the North”, and all the things he finds when he gets there.  Caldecott Medalist Chris Raschka has illustrated the poem with his usual bright paintings, including a detailed, labeled map of New York City and Scotland on the endpapers.  An author’s note at the end tells more of Keats’ life and how he came to write this poem.  40 pages; grades 1-5.

Pros:  A perfect introduction to a poet who might not generally be accessible to kids.  The short lines, rhyming words, and colorful illustrations make this a good first poetry book for younger readers.

Cons:  A written explanation of the map on the endpapers would have been useful.

Escargot by Dashka Slater, pictures by Sydney Hanson

Published by Farrar, Straus, and Giroux

Summary:  Escargot is a chatty French snail who would like to be your friend.  He’s on his way to a salad, and as he goes, he gives a stream of consciousness narration.  Did you know no one ever says the snail is their favorite animal?  Some people think snails are slimy, but that stuff they leave as they go is really more shimmery.  And they’re actually not as shy nor as slow as you might think.  Look at how fast Escargot is approaching that salad!  After consuming the carrot (which he didn’t think he would like!), he connects with a kid at the end, climbs on his hand, and gives him a big kiss.  Mwah!  40 pages; ages 4-7.

Pros:  Dust off your Inspector Clouseau-inspired French accent to read this aloud.  Kids will love the adorable Escargot and his Gallic flair.

Cons:  I feared for the fate of a French snail named Escargot, especially as he was traveling toward a salad.

Town is by the Sea by Joanne Schwartz, illustrated by Sydney Smith

Published by Groundwood Books

Summary:  The boy in the story describes his house by the sea and what a typical day is like for him there.  While he wakes up and eats breakfast, plays with a friend, and does a chore for his mother, his father is deep underground, working in the coal mine.  At suppertime, his father finally arrives home, and the family eats dinner together, then relaxes on the porch as the sun goes down.  One day, the boy says, it will be his turn to go to the dark tunnels underground.  “I’m a miner’s son,” he concludes.  “In my town, that’s the way it goes.”  An author’s note reveals that the story takes place in a mining town on Cape Breton in the 1950’s, but that the boy’s life is similar to that of children in mining towns in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.  52 pages; grades K-5.

Pros:  The juxtaposition of the beautiful seascape and the darkness of the coal mines is captured by both the text and the pictures.  The repeating phrases, “And deep down under that sea, my father is digging for coal,” and “it goes like this” as the narrator describes each part of his day describe an unending rhythm, both to his days and to the years of life in this town.  The illustrations do an amazing job of capturing the changing light and shadows as the day progresses.

Cons:  It’s a pretty heartbreaking ending when the boy, whose life seems pretty idyllic, matter-of-factly states that he will become a miner too some day.

The Book of Mistakes by Corinna Luyken

Published by Dial Books

Summary:  Is it a mistake or an opportunity to be creative?  When an artist draws a girl with two different-sized eyes, glasses fix the problem.  When her feet don’t quite meet the ground in the picture, the addition of a pair of roller skates makes it look better.  A strange frog-cat-cow animal becomes a nice-looking bush.  Before long, the page is filled with an imaginative collection of people and animals doing all kinds of activities in a gigantic tree house.  Gradually, the artist moves away from the scene until it appears to be incorporated into the glasses girl’s head…and that girl is starting all over with a new picture.  56 pages; ages 4-8.

Pros:  The beautiful and intricate illustrations convey the message that it’s okay to make mistakes.  There is always a way to fix them, often making the new product better than the original.

Cons:  I found the last few pages confusing.

Waiting for Pumpsie by Barry Wittenstein, illustrated by London Ladd

Published by Charlesbridge

Summary:  Bernard lives in Boston and is “crazy, crazy, crazy” about the Red Sox.  He wants them to win, but his mom tells him they have to root for colored players.  It’s 1959, and Boston has the not-so-proud distinction of being the last team in the MLB to integrate.  Jackie Robinson has been retired for two years, and Hank Aaron and Willie Mays are big stars on other teams.  Bernard follows the “Negro stars” on the Celtics and Bruins teams, but the Red Sox remain all white.  Then, during spring training, he hears about Elijah “Pumpsie” Green, a new player in the minor leagues.  Bernard prays that Pumpsie will move up, and in July, it finally happens.  The whole family crowds around the radio to listen to his first game, and when he finally gets up in the eighth inning, Dad wipes tears away as he tells Bernard he can never forget this moment.  The next day, the whole family goes to Fenway to watch Pumpsie, and “for once, the stands are packed with colored faces.”  When Green hits a triple, it feels like a combination of New Year’s Eve and the Fourth of July, and Bernard sees celebrations going on all the way back home.  Includes an author’s note and four additional sources.  32 pages; grades K-4.

Pros:  An interesting look at a little-known chapter in the story of baseball integration.  The realistic paintings of the action at Fenway Park will be enjoyed by Red Sox fans.  And all fans should know the shameful history of Boston’s segregationist policies, led by Tom Yawkey, the 44-year owner of the team and namesake of Fenway’s Yawkey Way.

Cons:  No photos.