Imagine! By Raul Colon

Published by Simon and Schuster

Image result for raul colon imagine amazon

Image result for raul colon imagine amazon

Summary:  A boy rides his skateboard over the Brooklyn Bridge to the Museum of Modern Art.  Inside he is captivated by three painting: Pablo Picasso’s Three Musicians, Henri Rousseau’s The Sleeping Gypsy, and Henri Matisse’s Icarus.  As he gazes at them, the figure from Icarus steps out of the painting and starts dancing with the boy.  The three musicians soon join them, playing their instruments, and finally the woman and lion from Rousseau’s painting follow the group as they head out of the museum.  They explore the city, riding the subway, taking a dip on the Cyclone roller coaster, eating hot dogs, and climbing the Statue of Liberty before heading back to MOMA.  The boy says goodbye as they all return to their paintings, then he gets his skateboard and heads for home. Along the way, he sees a big building and is inspired to paint pictures of his new friends on its side.  An author’s note tells how he developed his own love of art and hopes to inspire readers. 48 pages; ages 4-8.

Pros:  This wordless picture book is a follow-up to Colon’s 2014 Draw!, sharing with readers a love of art and creativity that started when he was a child.  The watercolor paintings give the illustrations a dreamy quality that is appropriate for a story of imagination.  Maybe a contender for Caldecott recognition.

Cons:  I wish the original paintings had been shown somewhere in the book.

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

Hey, Wall: A Story of Art and Community by Susan Verde, illustrated by John Parra

Published by Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers

Image result for hey wall verde amazon

Image result for hey wall verde amazon

Summary:  A boy describes the concrete wall in his neighborhood, and all the goings-on in front of it throughout the seasons.  The people sing, dance, skateboard, eat, and tell stories, but the wall just sits there doing nothing. Then, the boy decides to change that.  Working with others from the community, he designs a picture to paint on the wall. The wall becomes a canvas for art that everyone can contribute to.  In the end, it’s covered with pictures of the people that have been shown on the previous pages. Includes author’s and illustrator’s notes telling about their experiences and inspirations from street art.  40 pages; ages 4-8.

Pros:  Readers may be inspired to create their own street art after reading this book.  The illustrations show a busy, diverse community that looks like a fun place to live.  Kids will enjoy looking back to find the people portrayed on the mural.

Cons:  The author’s note is a bit long for the intended audience; it would have been nice to include some photos of real street art along with her explanation.

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

With My Hands: Poems About Making Things by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater, pictures by Lou Fancher & Steve Johnson

Published by Clarion Books

Image result for with my hands poems about amazon

Image result for with my hands lou fancher

Summary:  These 25 poems celebrate the act of creation, starting with one entitled “Maker” and ending with “With My Hands”.  In between are poems about knitting, tie dying, soap carving, and a host of other projects. There are a few concrete poems (“Knitting” and “Glitter”); a few don’t rhyme, but most so.  Each poem is accompanied by a colorful collage illustration of kids and the creation described in the poem. 32 pages; ages 4-8.

Pros:  A fun collection that will inspire young makers.  All the projects are low-tech and most could be done in some version by preschoolers.

Cons:  Another dimension could have been added to the book by including project instructions to go with the poems.

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

My Family Divided: One Girl’s Journey of Home, Loss, and Hope by Diane Guerrero, with Erica Moroz

Published by Henry Holt and Co.

Image result for my family divided diane guerrero amazon

Summary:  TV actress Diane Guerrero (Orange Is the New Black, Jane the Virgin) relates her struggles growing up as the child of two undocumented parents.  When Diane was 14, she came home from school one day to find out that both of her parents had been arrested.  They were ultimately deported to Colombia, and Diane stayed with friends for the next four year so she could finish school.  Halfway through college, she began suffering from depression that resulted in cutting and a suicide attempt. She was fortunate to get therapy, learning to finally deal with her emotions about what had happened to her.  Her work with her therapist influenced her to pursue her passion for acting. Not only has she launched a successful television and movie career, but she has become an advocate for undocumented immigrants and their children. 256 pages; grades 5-9.

Pros:  Diane’s story is pretty riveting, and shines a light on children whose lives are affected by an undocumented status in their families; those who are fortunate enough not to be dealing with those issues will relate to her everyday struggles with family, friends, and school.

Cons:  Not necessarily a con, but just be aware that Diane expresses some pretty strong anti-Trump sentiments in the final chapter.

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

The 5 O’Clock Band by Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews, illustrated by Bryan Collier

Published by Abrams Books for Young Readers

Image result for 5 o'clock band amazon

Image result for 5 o'clock band collier

Summary:  In this companion book to Trombone Shorty, Troy Andrews tells the story of a day he forgot to meet his band for their daily performance through the streets of New Orleans.  He wanders through the streets, fearing he may not have what it takes to become a great bandleader.  Along the way he meets musician Tuba Treme, chef Queen Lola, and Big Chief from the Mardi Gras Indians.  Each one gives Shorty advice about what it takes to be a leader: respect for tradition, love, and dedication.  When he finally catches up with his band, Shorty tells that them that he’s learned that they have what they need to be a success.  They invite him to take the lead, and off they go, playing “When the Saints Go Marching In” and parading through their neighborhood to the delight of their fans. Includes author’s and illustrator’s notes with additional information about the people and places in the story. 40 pages; grades K-4.

Pros:  Another winning effort by Troy Andrews and Bryan Collier that conveys Andrew’s love for music and his hometown of New Orleans.

Cons:  The story was a little long and rambling.

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

Drawn Together by Minh Le, illustrated by Dan Santat

Published by Disney-Hyperion

Image result for drawn together santat amazon

Image result for drawn together santat

Summary:  When the boy’s mother drops him off at his Thai grandfather’s house, he faces an evening of missed communications.  Grandpa only speaks Thai, and watches Thai movies on TV.  Bored, the boy pulls out paper and markers from his backpack.  When his grandfather sees what he is doing, he brings out his own sketchbook, and the two finally have a connection. They create a magical world of warriors and dragons; even when the old distance between them threatens, the boy isn’t afraid.  Wielding a paintbrush, he creates a bridge that brings them together again. When Mom comes back for her son, he and his grandfather embrace, leaving with the promise of many new adventures just ahead. 40 pages; ages 4-8.

Pros:  This simple but powerful story celebrates art as a connection between generations and cultures.  The illustrations could put Dan Santat in contention for another Caldecott.

Cons:  Don’t go too fast, or you’ll miss the exquisite details of the illustrations.

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

When Paul Met Artie: The Story of Simon and Garfunkel by G. Neri, illustrated by David Litchfield

Published by Candlewick

Image result for when paul met artie amazon

Image result for when paul met artie amazon

Summary:  This story of Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel begins at their Central Park concert on September 19, 1981, then travels back in time 30 years to when the two boys were growing up in 1950’s Queens.  They became friends in a sixth-grade production of Alice in Wonderland, and were inspired by Elvis and other early rockers to try harmonizing, later adding Paul on guitar. At 15, they had their first hit record as Tom and Jerry (Simon and Garfunkel was deemed to Jewish-sounding for 1950’s America), but later recordings failed to catch on.  They met up again in the early 1960’s and released another record, Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M., another flop, except that one song, “The Sound of Silence”, slowly started climbing the charts.  The book ends on New Year’s Day, 1966, when that song reached number one. Includes an afterword, discography, bibliography, and list of musical connections.  48 pages; ages 10 and up.

Pros:  An absorbing history of one of the greatest duos of the rock and roll era.  Each page is a poem titled with one of Simon and Garfunkel’s songs, beginning with “My Little Town”, describing the suburb of Queens where the two grew up.  The illustrations are occasionally goofy, as the two boys were, but really capture the changing times from the 1950’s to the 1960’s. Any fan of their music will enjoy this history and undoubtedly learn a few things as well.

Cons:  Although this looks like an elementary school purchase, it would probably be more interesting to middle schoolers and older, and definitely requires some familiarity with Simon and Garfunkel’s music to be fully appreciated.

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