History, stories, laughter and a few tears in these spectacular picture books.
‘Grandmother’s Pigeon’ by Louise Erdrich, illustrated by Jim LaMarche. (University of Minnesota Press, ages 5-9, $ 17.95.)
Grandmother, a “much more mysterious woman” than her family thought, sets sail for Greenland on the back of a porpoise. A year later, in Grandmother’s crowded room, strange pigeon eggs begin to hatch. Take out three fledgling carrier pigeons – a long extinct species. Should the family entrust them to science? Or release them? Erdrich’s gripping story is about the mystery and resilience of nature – and the responsibility of humans to help. LaMarche’s realistic illustrations keep the story rooted.
‘If you want to knit mittens’ by Laura Purdie Salas, illustrated by Angela Matteson. (Boyds Mill Press, ages 4-8, $ 17.99.)
If you want to knit mittens, Salas writes in his fun new picture book, you have to start with a sheep. This is the first step. The fact that “knitting your mittens” is step 18 gives you an idea of the depth (and humor) of this step-by-step book. Matteson’s acrylic, gouache and colored pencil illustrations include clever details with occasional hints of Grandma Moses.
‘Jayden’s Impossible Garden’ by Melina Mangal, illustrated by Ken Daley. (Free Spirit, ages 4-9, $ 16.99.)
“There’s no nature here in the middle of town,” Jayden’s mother tells her, but a friendship with a neighbor teaches her otherwise. Together, the two plant a garden inside milk jugs and coffee cans. The flowers attract hummingbirds and other creatures, delighting neighborhood children. Mangal’s story is simple and sweet, with instructions on how to create your own urban garden. Daley’s cheerful paintings showcase color and natural beauty in a sandy landscape.
‘See the Dog: Three Stories about a Cat’ by David LaRochelle, illustrated by Mike Wohnoutka. (Candlewick, ages 4-8, $ 8.99.)
In the sequel to Geisel Prize-winning “See the Cat,” the cat replaces the dog in inclement weather, doing its best to dig a hole, swim and herd sheep, all of the most unnatural actions for a cat. “Help! Help! Save me! I’m drowning!” he finally cries out, his paws over his eyes. The dog comes back to prance to take over, but the cat (of course) has the last word. LaRochelle’s hilarious few words and Wohnoutka’s cheerful illustrations are a winning combination.
“Monkey with a tool belt and the smartest Christmas ever!” By Chris Monroe. (Carolrhoda, ages 4-8, $ 17.99.)
The handy Chico Bon Bon is all about recycling as he stumbles across a pile of trash while sledding with his buddy Clark. He takes everything home and makes fabulous Christmas gifts for his friends. There isn’t much drama to the story, but the charm of artist Duluth Monroe’s book lies in its wacky, highly detailed illustrations and the sometimes rhyming musical cadence of the objects on Chico’s miraculous tool belt. Such a fun book to read aloud.
‘Unspeakable: The Tulsa Race Massacre’ by Carole Boston Weatherford and Floyd Cooper. (Carolrhoda, 8-12 years old, $ 17.99.)
“Once upon a time,” Weatherford’s book begins, as it tells the story of the rise and brutal demolition of what was once the richest black quarter in the country. This phrase is repeated throughout the book, a drumbeat that reminds the reader that the glorious things of history – libraries and hotels, restaurants and furriers, all owned by blacks – are all a thing of the past. Cooper’s oil and erasure paints are suitably dark. With context and photos on the back. This beautiful history book has been shortlisted for a 2021 National Book Award.
“From the Treetops” by Kao Kalia Yang, illustrated by Rachel Wada. (Carolrhoda, 5-9 years old, $ 17.99.)
Once again, St. Paul’s writer Kao Kalia Yang finds a beauty story from his childhood in Ban Vinai refugee camp in Thailand. Little Kalia is aware of the harshness that surrounds them: she and her sisters are hungry; they hear their aunts talking about war, and they have heard that the Hmong people are not wanted in Thailand or Laos. But his father can see in the long term. He tells her to get on his back, and up, up they go into the tallest branches of a tree. “Look,” he told her. “The world is bigger than this place. »An inspiring story of love and hope.
‘Ten Beautiful Things’ by Molly Beth Griffin, illustrated by Maribel Lechuga. (Charlesbridge, 5-8 years old, $ 16.99.)
Lily’s grandmother came to take her to her new home, Gram’s farm in the middle of Iowa. Along the way, Gram suggests that Lily keep an eye out for 10 beautiful things to make the trip easier. A blackbird, a sunrise, a cove – the first nine are easy, but what is number 10? Griffin’s prose is a marvel, as economical and lively as poetry. Lechuga’s Photoshop and watercolor illustrations capture the day from sunrise to evening thunderstorm.