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After the Fall

At the start of each school year, I choose one picture book to read to every class when the students come for library orientation. I like the idea of building a community around a shared understanding, as well as sharing a great new book with all of our students. Last year, during the first week […]

Life

“Life cereal. That’s a ballsy name, I always thought. LIFE. ‘What are we going to call this?’ ‘How about Oaties? Squaries?’ ‘No! This is much bigger than that. This is LIFE, I TELL YOU!’” —Jerry Seinfeld Forget cereal. I’d argue Life is a pretty ballsy name for a picture book. But Cynthia Rylant has officially […]

All the Way to Havana

Thanks to All the Way to Havana, the vibrant and evocative book written by Margarita Engle and inventively illustrated by Mike Curato, I learned something very interesting about modern-day Cuba. Many of the cars on the road there are pre-1959 American automobiles. We meet a boy whose family owns such a vehicle, lovingly called “Cara Cara.” Passed from one […]

The Little Red Cat Who Ran Away and Learned His ABC’s (the Hard Way)

The other day in the grocery store I overheard one woman explaining to another why she thought calculus was ridiculous: “You can’t add letters.” True enough, and it led me to pondering one of my favorite time-twiddling questions: why is the alphabet in the order it is? There is no real reason b should follow […]

How It Feels to Be a Boat

The cover of How It Feels to Be a Boat, written and illustrated by James Kwan, promises a sailing adventure. There’s music in the air and a boat with whimsical passengers in high spirits. On the back cover, baby yellow elephants on rocks watch the boat chug along. The boat is right at the edge […]

Robinson

Peter Sís’s Robinson has been one of my 2017 favorites since the moment I first laid eyes on it. For one thing, on a personal (and superficial) level, I love that he captures on many of the book’s spreads my favorite shades of blue. Oh, the beautiful blues here! Blue ties with yellow for My […]

The Ring Bearer

I have long admired Floyd Cooper’s books. His contributions to American art and culture feel vital always, but especially when there are still too few African American authors’ and illustrators’ voices in U.S. publishing today. The art he creates for his books is distinctive and unique. I do not fully understand HOW his subtractive style […]

A Boy, a Mouse, and a Spider

In the words of E. B. White, “Children are demanding. They are the most attentive, curious, eager, observant, sensitive, quick, and generally congenial readers on earth.” I think White would be pleased with Barbara Herkert’s and Lauren Castillo’s collaboration, A Boy, a Mouse, and a Spider: The Story of E. B. White. Through lyrical prose […]

Martí’s Song for Freedom

When I was a kid, my father installed two gold-painted busts of famous Cubans in our front yard. One was of Antonio Maceo, the Afro-Cuban general who was a leader in the island’s struggle for independence from Spain. The other was of José Martí. Friends would sometimes ask, seeing the head of Martí (the larger […]

A Different Pond

What happens when a cartoonist/graphic novelist is tasked with illustrating a picture book? The result in this case is a phenomenal piece of work that intensely captures mood and tells an unforgettable story of endurance. Upon our first look at Bao Phi’s A Different Pond (i.e., the cover), illustrated by Thi Bui, we see a book about […]