Through the Window: Views of Marc Chagall’s Life and Art by Barb Rosenstock, illustrated by Mary Grandpre

Published by Knopf

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Summary:  From the author-illustrator team that brought you The Noisy Paint Box and Vincent Can’t Sleep comes this introduction to the life of artist Marc Chagall.  Born Moishe Shagal in Vitebsk, Russia, he changed his name as a young man living and working in Paris.  Many of his paintings showed what he saw through various windows, which is referenced in the title.  Due to the two world wars, Chagall was forced to return to Russia for awhile before getting back to Paris and eventually moving to the United States. He continued to explore new art forms as he grew older, including sculpture, set design, and stained glass.  Includes an author’s note, which includes photos of some of Chagall’s work, and a list of sources. 40 pages; grades 1-5.

Pros:  A beautiful introduction to Marc Chagall’s life, both visually and through the text, which the author’s note explains is written the style of Chagall’s poetic autobiography, My Life.

Cons:  The story might be a little confusing without some guidance from a knowledgeable adult.

If you would like to buy this book on Amazon, click here.

A Day with Judy Freeman

I spent today in Bristol, Connecticut at Judy Freeman’s What’s New in Children’s Literature workshop.  Judy was kind enough to invite me as her guest, and I enjoyed hearing what books she recommended and getting some programming ideas to promote them.  Sponsored by the Bureau of Education and Research (BER), it’s always a worthwhile workshop if you get the opportunity to go.

Judy and I have read a lot of the same books this year, but I did hear of a few that I missed and wished I had included on this blog.  Here’s a quick run-down if you want to try to get your hands on them.

The United States v. Jackie Robinson by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen

Published by Balzer + Bray

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Jackie Robinson’s baseball career is a familiar story, but this looks at his early life, growing up with a mother who refused to back down when their white neighbors tried to force the family to move.  The story also covers Jackie’s college and military career, showing how his early years shaped his later life playing baseball and working for civil rights.  32 pages; grades 3-6.


Mae’s First Day of School by Kate Berube

Published by Abrams

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Mae would rather sit up in a tree all day than face the uncertainties of the first day of school.  Soon she’s joined by another girl named Rosie, who shares Mae’s concerns about the unknown.  Finally, a third person joins them: Ms. Pearl, the new teacher who has her own insecurities.  The three finally decide to face their fears, climb down from the tree, and walk into school together.  32 pages; ages 4-8.


Stegothesaurus by Bridget Heos, illustrated by T. L. McBeth

Published by Henry Holt

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Two of the brothers are stegosauruses, but the third is a stegothesaurus.  Stegosauruses say hi; but it’s “Hello! Greetings! Salutations!” from the stegothesaurus.  A big mountain is “gargantuan, gigantic, Goliath”, and a hot day is “blazing, blistering, broiling”.  When the stegothesaurus meets an allothesaurus, the words really start to fly.  A fun introduction to word choice and thesauruses.  32 pages; grades K-3.


Worlds Make Way: New Poems Inspired by Art from The Metropolitan Museum by Lee Bennett Hopkins

Published by Abrams

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Seventeen children’s poets, plus Hopkins, created works inspired by paintings at The Metropolitan Museum in New York City.  A beautiful and accessible introduction to poetry and art.  48 pages; grades 3-7.


Dear Substitute by Liz Garton Scanlon and Audrey Vernick, illustrated by Chris Raschka

Published by Disney-Hyperion

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A girl is surprised to find a substitute in her class, and writes disgruntled letters about the changes in the routine.  As the day goes on, though, she begins to appreciate the fun-loving sub, and by dismissal time, she realizes the day has turned out just fine.  32 pages; grades K-3.



Water Land: Land and Water Forms Around the World by Christy Hale

Published by Roaring Brook Press

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Summary:  Ten different land and water forms are depicted, using die cut pages to turn one form into another.  For instance, the first two pages show a tan landscape with a hole cut out showing the blue on the next page–a lake.  Turn the page, and that hole turns the previous page into an island in the middle of the blue water. Each spread shows people engaging in various recreational activities like camping and swimming.  There’s only one word on each page, but the last two pages define all the land and water forms. They’re part of a larger fold-out page that lists different examples of the forms and shows them on a map of the world.  32 pages; ages 3-10.

Pros:  This book will appeal to a wide variety of ages; preschoolers will enjoy the die cut pages and learning new words; older students of geography will get a good deal of information on the final pages.  And everyone will have fun seeing what the people are up to and dreaming about which land or water form they would like to visit.

Cons:  Such a cool book deserves a snazzier title.

If you would like to buy this book on Amazon, click here.

Regina Persisted: An Untold Story by Sandy Eisenberg Sasso, illustrated by Margeaux Lucas

Published by Apples and Honey Press

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Summary:  The story opens as Regina Jonas is on her way to take an exam that will allow her to be a Jewish rabbi.  As she’s walking to the school, she thinks back on what has brought her to this day–a love of the Torah, a father who believed girls should learn Hebrew, years of going to synagogue every week and staying after the service to study with the rabbi.  When she arrives at school, though, she’s stopped from taking the exam by a teacher who tells her that girls can’t be rabbis and that she must give up her dream. For five years, Regina continues to teach and inspire Jews during what is becoming an increasingly dark time in Germany.  Finally, on December 26, 1935, she is allowed to take the exam and become the first woman rabbi in the world. An afterword tells of Regina’s brief career until her death in Auschwitz in 1944; there was not another woman rabbi until 1972, but now there are close to 1,000, including the author.  32 pages; grades 2-5.

Pros:  It’s an amazing story of a woman who refused to take no for an answer in pursuing her dream.  The text and illustrations do a nice job of incorporating the stories of a couple of other strong Jewish women (Miriam and Esther).

Cons:  Because this was published by a small press specializing in Judaism, it’s probably not going to fly under the radar for many librarians and other book buyers.

If you would like to buy this book on Amazon, click here.


Found by Jeff Newman and Larry Day

Published by Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers

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Summary:  When a girl finds a new puppy in this wordless picture book, she is delighted.  There are signs all around (empty dog dish, photo, and a missing poster on her bulletin board) of Prudence, a beloved dog that she has lost.  But she begins to bond with the new dog, and the illustrations show them playing, wrestling, and taking a trip to the pet store for a new leash. On the way home, though, she sees a sign for a lost dog with a picture that is unmistakably her new friend.  After a night of soul-searching, she takes the dog back to his original owner, a boy who looks to be about her age. She starts home dejectedly, but her route takes her past the animal shelter. There in the window, a dog is looking out at her.  The last picture shows them gazing happily at each other through the window, her hand and his paw against the glass. 48 pages; ages 4-10.

Pros:  The story is simple, but powerful.  Kids will be able to identify the emotions from the girl’s expressions and body language, and can use clues from the illustrations to figure out what’s gone on in the past.  They will learn about love, loss, and moving forward again.

Cons:  2018 seems to be the year of heartbreaking dog stories.  Laura Seeger, Brian Lies, and Jeff Newman: are you trying to kill me?

If you would like to buy this book on Amazon, click here.

Libba: The Magnificent Musical Life of Elizabeth Cotten by Laura Veirs, illustrated by Tatyana Fazlalizadeh

Published by Chronicle Books

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Summary:  Growing up in North Carolina, Elizabeth “Libba” Cotten loved playing music.  She learned to play her brother’s guitar, but because she was left-handed, she played it upside-down and backwards.  When her brother moved out, taking his guitar with him, Libba did chores until she had saved $3.75 to buy her own instrument. When she was 12, she wrote a song called “Freight Train”.  But an early marriage and a baby derailed her musical ambitions for many years. In the 1940’s, she took a job as a housekeeper for the musical Seeger family.  When they heard her play, they helped launch her career. She recorded her first album in 1958, then went on tour. “Freight Train” became a hit, and her songs were covered by many artists.  Libba won a Grammy award in 1985, when she was in her 90’s. Includes a lengthy author’s note with additional biographical information and a list of works cited. 48 pages; grades 2-5.

Pros:  Kids may not appreciate the “it’s never too late to follow your dreams message”, but it’s an inspiring one for us older readers, and Libba’s unconventional way of playing the guitar will help kids to see there’s more than one path to greatness.  Look on YouTube for a video of Libba playing and singing “Freight Train” to really appreciate her guitar talents.

Cons:  Although the illustrations are lovely, the cover didn’t really grab me, and I had this out of the library a couple times before I finally read it.

If you would like to buy this book on Amazon, click here.

Fairy Spell: How Two Girls Convinced the World That Fairies Are Real by Marc Tyler Nobleman, illustrated by Eliza Wheeler

Published by Clarion Books

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Summary:  In 1917, cousins Frances Griffiths and Elsie Wright spent much of the summer playing near the beck, or stream, behind their home in Cottingley, England.  When Frances got in trouble for getting her shoes wet, she claimed she and Elsie had seen fairies near the water. She convinced her father to let them take his camera to photograph the little creatures, and sure enough, they were able to capture some of the fairies on film.  The photos came to the attention of Sherlock Holmes author Arthur Conan Doyle, and he was so intrigued, he got them published in a magazine. The hoax continued until 1983, when Frances and Elsie, then 75 and 81, finally admitted that the pictures were faked. They never expected their prank to get so big, and when it did, hadn’t wanted to embarrass their families and Conan Doyle.  In fact Frances admitted faking most of them, but would never renounce the final photo they took, and always claimed there had been fairies in Cottingley. Includes an author’s note and list of sources. 40 pages; grades 1-5.

Pros:  This story has been told before, but this version is particularly well-done for younger kids, with the original photos incorporated into the illustrations.  The author’s note includes a discussion of how people can be tricked into believing things that aren’t true, and how this continues today, aided by the Internet.  

Cons:  Kids may find it hard to believe that people believed these photos were real for so many years.

If you would like to buy this book on Amazon, click here.

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