Dandelion’s Dream by Yoko Tanaka

Published by Candlewick

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Image result for dandelion's dream tanaka

Summary:  A dandelion dreams of becoming a dandy lion and going on many adventures:  riding on a train, sailing on a ship, visiting the city. Finally, he rides in a small biplane, where he gets an aerial view of all the city lights.  As he watches, the blurry lights transform into puffy dandelions, and he is back in the field. He’s gone from yellow to white, and on the last pages, seeds blow from him into the dark sky, forming the shape of a pouncing lion.  40 pages; ages 3-7.

Pros:  The illustrations in this wordless picture book have a surreal, dreamy quality, perfect for the story.  The story is straightforward and easy to understand, but could easily prompt more discussion, writing, or art.

Cons:  I was disappointed that Dandelion didn’t fly off the ship on his bird friend’s back.

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

Stormy:  A Story About Finding A Forever Home by Guojing

Published by Schwartz and Wade

Image result for stormy guojing

Image result for stormy guojing

Summary:  A woman notices a stray dog in the park at the start of this wordless book.  Day after day, she tries to gently coax him to come to her, but he’s shy. Finally, he begins to play a cautious game of fetch with her.  One night, he follows her home.  As he stands outside her door, it begins to rain. Soon he’s soaked and seeks shelter in a cardboard box.  While he’s asleep, the woman comes dashing out of her house and runs to the park. Clearly, she’s looking for the dog, and when she doesn’t find him, she dispiritedly returns home.  Outside her front door, she sees the ball they used for fetch, and discovers her friend inside the box. He finally allows her to pick him up, and inside he dries off and has a good meal.  At bedtime, she shows him the pillows at the foot of her bed, but he prefers to curl up on her bed, and that’s where he is as the two of them sleep on the last page. 40 pages; ages 3-8.

Pros:  If you need your heartstrings tugged, this is the book for you.  The illustrations are gorgeous with interesting lights and shadows showing different times of day and night.  The pictures tell the story clearly, so kids will have no trouble understanding what is going on. 

Cons:  You will definitely get a lump in your throat reading this one.

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

Fly! by Mark Teague

Published by Beach Lane Books

Image result for fly mark teague

Image result for fly mark teague

Summary:  A young bird and its parent engage in wordless dialogue in this story about getting up the courage to leave the nest.  After feeding its offspring endless worms, the parent is ready for the youngster to fly. But they have different ideas about this, especially when the little bird leaves the nest and tumbles straight to the ground.  Readers see their communication as pictures in cartoon bubbles; the older bird tries to convince with pictures of soaring eagles and flights to Florida, while the younger one imagines riding in an airplane, traveling in a hot-air balloon, and biking to Florida.  Finally, the real threat of becoming an owl’s dinner convinces the kid to try again, and both birds end up happily back in their nest as the moon rises over them.

Pros:  I learned about this book in a recent edition of one of my favorite Caldecott predictors, and while I’m not sure it’s quite medal-worthy, it is a lot of fun.  Sometimes wordless books can be confusing, but this is one that even the youngest readers will enjoy.

Cons:  The parent seemed overly indulgent of its slightly bratty child.

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

The Fisherman and the Whale by Jessica Lanan

Published by Simon and Schuster

Image result for fisherman whale lanan amazon

Image result for fisherman whale lanan amazon

Summary:  While a boy and his fisherman father work at hauling in their catch in this wordless tale, a whale gets tangled in nets and line under the water.  As the boat is heading home, the boy spots the whale’s tail in the distance and convinces his father to investigate. As they get closer, they can see that the whale’s mouth is wrapped in fishing line.  In a daring rescue, the fisherman jumps into the water with a knife, and manages to cut the whale free, repeatedly diving beneath the water to slice away the lines and nets. Safely back on the boat, the man and his son share a hug before hearing something in the water.  They look to see the whale leap from the water, and they exchange a wave and some smiles before each one heads off into the sunset. Includes an author’s note with more information about the dangers of fishing to whales, dolphins, and porpoises, as well as a note cautioning kids not to try any sort of rescue themselves.  48 pages; ages 4-8.

Pros:  I do love a good wordless book, and this one has gorgeous watercolor illustrations that tell the story clearly enough for preschoolers to understand.  The environmental message is a nice bonus.

Cons:  Even though the fisherman managed to save this particular whale, he still seems to be engaging in an activity that has the potential to kill other marine mammals.

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

Field Trip to the Moon by John Hare

Published by Margaret Ferguson

Image result for field trip to the moon amazon

Image result for field trip to the moon john hare

Summary:  At the start of this wordless picture book a school bus approaches the moon, and a group of space suited kids and adults head out to explore the surface, peering into craters and jumping over chasms.  One child hangs back, eventually propping herself up against a rock and using crayons and a pad of paper to sketch the Earth. She nods off, waking up to a deserted moon and a glimpse of the flying bus in the black sky.  With nothing else to do, she gets out her art supplies again. As she draws, a group of blobby gray aliens surround her to watch. They’re intrigued with the colors, and when she offers them crayons, they use them to decorate the gray moon rocks and each other.  When the bus reappears, they scatter. An adult comes out and hugs the child, then insists she clean the drawings off the moon rocks. The two go off to board the bus, as alien hands holding crayons rise out of the moon’s surface to wave goodbye. 40 pages; ages 4-8.

Pros:  This ode to imagination stands out from the plethora of moon books being published this year in honor of the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing.  There’s plenty to see on each page, yet the story is straightforward enough for kids to understand (something I sometimes struggle with in wordless books).

Cons:  What teacher doesn’t take attendance when the kids get back on the bus?

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

Image result for field trip to the moon john hare

I wrote a book!

Remember the book A Wonderful Year by Nick Bruel?  Me neither.  It was the first book I reviewed on this blog on February 20, 2015, and I don’t think I’ve looked at it since.

Three days later I posted a review for The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley, a book I still book talk many times a year and count among my favorite books of all times.

That’s the way it goes with reading.  Some books are just more memorable than others.

So when I realized that I’ve published almost 1,400 reviews, I decided it was time to do some weeding.  In a week or so, I’m going to take down the reviews from 2015 and 2016.  In preparation for this,  I’ve gone through all the books I’ve written about and picked out the ones I feel have stood the test of time.

I’ve compiled them into a book called Hit the Books: The Best of Kids Book A Day, 2015-2018.  There are about 150 books included; each entry has the summary I wrote on my blog and why it was included on the list.  They’re divided into eight sections: picture books, early readers, early chapter books, middle grade fiction, graphic novels, poetry, biography, and nonfiction.

I also put together ten lists of “Read-Alikes” from the books I’ve reviewed on the blog.  So if you have a fan of Diary of A Wimpy Kid or Raina Telgemeier, you can get some ideas for other books they might want to try.

Let me know if you find this book helpful.  Who knows, I may put together a second edition in another year or two!

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

Another by Christian Robinson

Published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers

Image result for another christian robinson amazon

Image result for another christian robinson amazon

Summary:  It’s bedtime for a girl and her cat as this wordless picture book opens; the cat sees a portal open in her wall, and a nearly-identical cat walks through and grabs a red toy mouse from the floor.  The girl wakes up, and the two follow the new cat out through the hole. They find themselves in a new world where up is down and down is up.  Other portals lead to new places where dozens of other children are playing. Finally, the girl and cat meet up with their doubles (except for a few details that are blue instead of red).  The blue-collared cat tosses the red mouse to the red-collared cat, and he and the girl return to their bedroom. Everything seems to be just as it was at the beginning of the story…except that now there is a blue toy mouse on the floor.  56 pages; ages 4-8.

Pros:  This is a real feast for the imagination…so much to look at it in the illustrations and a lot to speculate on in the crazy mixed-up world that Christian Robinson has beautifully created.

Cons:  I was pretty confused my first time through this book.

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