Reviews of the 2020 Boston Globe–Horn Book Picture Book Award Winner and Honor Books

Picture Book Winner

by Oge Mora; illus. by the author
Preschool, Primary    Little, Brown    40 pp.    g
10/19    978-0-316-43127-9    $18.99
e-book ed.  978-0-316-43126-2    $9.99 

Mora (Thank You, Omu!, rev. 11/18) follows up her Caldecott Honor winner with another story built around family and community connection. On Saturdays, Ava and her mother (who works the rest of the week) spend the whole day together. They go to the library, the beauty shop, the park — and on this particular Saturday they are taking the bus to see a special puppet show. However, a series of misadventures derails their perfectly planned day. Following each disappointment (library storytime is canceled, a puddle-splash ruins their newly styled hair), Mom tries to make the best of things. In an optimistic refrain, she repeats, “Today will be special. Today will be splendid. Today is SATURDAY!” But when even Mom reaches her limit, Ava steps up. Mora’s gorgeous cut-paper and collage illustrations depict a colorful, bustling city. Bits of patterned paper and “old book clippings” underscore the author’s love of storytelling. Sound effects in the text (“ZOOOOM!” “WHOOOSHH!”) add energy and child appeal. This simple, well-crafted tale holds universal lessons for children and adults alike: things do not always go as planned; taking a breath and a moment can help us shift our perspectives when life gets challenging; and setting aside time and spending it with loved ones is special no matter what you do. MONIQUE HARRIS

From the September/October 2019 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.


Honor Books

by Julie Flett; illus. by the author
Primary    Greystone Kids    56 pp.
9/19    978-1-77164-473-0    $17.95
e-book ed.  978-1-77164-474-7    $17.95

In spring Katherena, her mother, and their dog Ôhô pack up their “little home in the city by the sea” and move to their “new home [that] sits on a hill.” The new place is in a peaceful, bucolic setting, but it’s quite isolated. At her mother’s urging, Katherena befriends their neighbor, an elderly woman named Agnes who enjoys gardening and working with pottery. Season by season, the young girl and elderly woman continue meeting and talking while sharing their passion for flora, fauna, and art. The passage of time is indicated by brief pauses in the text (“Spring” “Summer” “Fall” “Winter” “Spring”) and with season-specific imagery in the gorgeous digitally composed pastel and pencil illustrations. The text is smooth and lyrical, but the pictures could almost tell the story by themselves, each composition portraying the emotional journey of Agnes and Katherena (and with glimmers of Katherena’s mother). Cree-Métis author/illustrator Flett’s words and images truly capture the warmth and solidarity of the female protagonists and the ideal of respect for our elders. This tender intergenerational friendship story beautifully portrays the ways in which human connections are strengthened through love of art and nature. A glossary of the few Cree words included in the text is appended. SUJEI LUGO

From the November/December 2019 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.


Pokko and the Drum
by Matthew Forsythe; illus. by the author
Preschool, Primary    Wiseman/Simon    64 pp.
10/19    978-1-4814-8039-0    $17.99
e-book ed.  978-1-4814-8040-6    $10.99

“The biggest mistake Pokko’s parents ever made was giving her a drum,” begins this story about a young frog musician’s path to creative fulfillment, benevolent (mostly) leadership, and satisfying self-expression. After that attention-grabbing opening line, the well-paced text builds anticipatory humor by backing up to describe earlier gifts Pokko’s parents regretted: a slingshot, a llama, and a balloon, all shown in uncluttered spreads featuring the game but poker-faced Pokko. Then comes the drum: Pokko’s face lights up (for a second) and she reaches toward her instrument, her now-constant companion. She practices inside the house; her parents send her out. She goes to the forest, where her playing attracts a banjo-strumming raccoon, a trumpet-blowing rabbit, and more; soon she’s trailed by a parade of like-minded, music-making creatures (minus the rabbit, who gets eaten by a wolf: “No more eating band members or you’re out of the band,” deadpans Pokko). There are lots of visual nods and references in Forsythe’s textured, painterly watercolor, gouache, and colored-pencil illustrations — Rousseau, Sendak, Lobel, Ungerer, Keats, Klassen — but, like his amphibian protagonist, this idiosyncratic author/illustrator/animator (The Brilliant Deep, rev. 7/18; Warning: Do Not Open This Book!; the Adventure Time television series) marches to his own beat. ELISSA GERSHOWITZ

From the January/February 2020 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.


The 2020 Boston Globe–Horn Book Award winners and honors were announced at SLJ's virtual Day of Dialog and via live stream on May 27th, 2020. For reviews of the winning titles and more, click on the tag BGHB20.

Horn Book
Horn Book
Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.

Rebecca McDonald

Excellent choices! I am particularly happy about Ashley Bryan's and Oge Mora's books.

Posted : May 27, 2020 09:11


Get access to reviews of books, ebooks, and more


We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing.