New Year, New Books

One thing that gives me hope for a good 2017 is that there are SO MANY wonderful books arriving in the coming year. Here are a few picture books that I am particularly excited about (so far), one for each of the first three months of the year.

January

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A Greyhound, A Groundhog by Emily Jenkins, illustrated by Chris Appelhans

Combine delicious, tongue-tying wordplay with gorgeous yet goofy illustrations, and you have my absolute favorite book so far of 2017. My review is here. And this one comes out on Tuesday, 1/3–HOORAY!

Ages 3+

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February

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Tony by Ed Galing, illustrated by Erin E. Stead

It would be very, very difficult for me to not love a story illustrated by Erin E. Stead, but the story behind this one gives it an extra specialness. On his blog, Philip Stead gave the origin story of Tony, and I guarantee if you read it you will find yourself a little misty-eyed. I think for 2017 we should all remember “that there are beautiful things happening in the world that go unnoticed.” And start noticing them–this book is a good start. My review is here.

Ages 3+

Out February 7th.

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March

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Bird, Balloon, Bear by Il Sung Na

This one’s for all those shy kindred spirits out there–may you find this lovely book helps you find the courage to find and cultivate friendships with those who are kind, loving, and understanding. My review is here.

Ages 2+

Out March 14th.

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Time, Turtles

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All the time that isn’t felt by the heart is as lost as a rainbow to a blind man or a birdsong to a deaf one. Unfortunately, there are many deaf and blind hearts that don’t feel anything, even though they continue to beat.

In a quiet, quaint town, little orphan Momo lives in the ruins of an amphitheater and spends most of her time playing with the other children. She has a particular, seemingly magical gift: She listens really, really well. She patiently hears all that is said and unsaid, revealing the truth beneath everyone’s miscommunications or rash outbursts. For this reason she is often turned to by village inhabitants as a confidant and mediator. Though Momo lives in poverty, she is rich in friends, who make sure she is taken care of. Her closest friends are Guido the Guide, a tour guide whose gift is in telling wholly absorbing stories; and Beppo Streetsweeper, who truly understands the meaning of enjoying the present moment. But something dark is afoot, as townspeople, and even Momo’s closest friends, are entrapped by the Men in Grey, who essentially hypnotize people into “saving time.” The truth is that these Grey men are stealing people’s time, leaving them in a frustrated, frenzied loop of trying to save more and more time as more and more slips away from them. Sound familiar?

Momo might have been written 43 ago, but the truths it reveals about the way in which we value time and busyness resonates just as clearly in 2016, if not more, than it did in 1973. It’s as if the Men in Grey have triumphed over us all, as we urge our world to move faster; keep us busy and occupied. To open Momo is to pause and listen (as deeply as Momo does) to another way–the way of patience, play, and process. The gorgeously-wrought story begs the question, “How do you want to spend your time?” Zwirner’s translation of Ende’s classic tale is rich with magic, humor, and a fresh lyrical quality that is perfectly complimented by Dzama’s elegantly simple illustrations. This book will appeal to any reader who enjoys walking the fine line between fantasy and reality–especially those who love Astrid Lindgren, Ottfried Preussler, and Ende’s The Neverending Story.

Favorite Character: Cassiopeia, a turtle who communicates with Momo via words on her shell and can see precisely a half-hour into the future. Yes, really.

Ages 11 & up.

Available now; paperback edition will be available in August from McSweeney’s!

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Good Deeds, Good Friends

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If only we could all look at the world the way Kate DiCamillo does–she finds beauty and wonder in even the minutest and mundane of details, and her books resonate with readers for this very reason. I’m so, so glad that Raymie Nightingale, her latest middle grade novel, is out in the world for others to hold and read and love.


My Review

Friendship, like bravery, can make its appearance at the most unexpected times. Kate DiCamillo’s new yarn is one to treasure–light and jocular on the surface, RAYMIE NIGHTINGALE belies a deeper, truer, more aching heart than at first it might seem, beating its broken rhythm with absent parents, poverty, and loss. Raymie, our spunky heroine, finds friendship among two girls who are battling the familiar childhood foes of loneliness and powerlessness. These “Three Rancheros” together light the way through their individual struggles, their solidarity aglow like Florence Nightingale’s lamp or Mrs. Sylvester’s sunlit jar of candy corn, rescuing each other from the darkness. DiCamillo has a magic way of noticing all the little nuances who make us what we are, creating characters that are equal parts weird and relatable, and her skillful intertwinement of humorous and heavy weaves pure poetry out of the ordinary. This book is one huge good deed destined to become a classic.

Out now!

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More Raving about Raymie

Check out Matthew Winner’s wonderful conversation with Kate DiCamillo on his All The Wonders Podcast! It’s 38 minutes that I guarantee will improve your day.

I like that NPR spotlights children’s literature so often–and they interviewed Kate DiCamillo a couple of days ago on All Things Considered. “It takes a lot of bravery to be kind,” indeed.

Trips, Time Traveling

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Dan Santat gets kids. And his picture books tap into the fantastic magic that fuels kids’ brains in hilarious, genius ways. Beekle showed how loneliness and imagination, woven together, can unite two unlikely friends. Santat’s new book, Are We There Yet?, stirs together that marvelous combination of boredom and imagination into what might be the most innovative book of the year. See my review below for why I love this book so much!

Psst, for all of you kids or “kids” in Athens, GA (or within driving distance)–Dan Santat will be HERE tomorrow (April 12th)–the very day his new book arrives into the world! Avid Bookshop is doing a pajama storytime in the evening–it should be a perfect escape from the supposedly terrible weather we will be getting. I’m trying to play it cool, but let’s face it–I AM SO EXCITED!


My Review

Time, when you are a kid, seems to move at an extended pace. Especially when you are bored. Especially when you are bored on a road trip. Santat’s genius new book plays with this concept the least boring way possible. A boy is on a road trip with his parents to his grandmother’s birthday party, a trip that begins to feel “like a million years”…. into the past. The boy’s imagination takes his family car through pirate ships and knight jousts and roaming dinosaurs until… ZOOM, they’re in a futuristic city with QR-speaking, picture-taking robots (yes, the QR codes are scannable) and.. WHOOSH, back to the present day, where the message, “there’s no greater gift than the present” really takes on a new meaning.

But wait, was this really all just in the boy’s head?

This is such a fun read for all ages that really plays with the picture book format in crazy (and crazy fun) ways–there are orientation changes that help the reader feel the jolt of the time shifts, embedded technology, comic-style paneling, and of course, Santat’s glorious, playful, rich illustration style. I guarantee you will want to read this book over and over (while turning it over and over), enjoying the weird, wonderful ride each time.

Ages 4-8.

Out tomorrow (April 12th)!

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Choices, Intentions

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Sometimes you read a book, and you cannot get it out of your mind, even long after you have finished it. It stays with you. For me, it is usually a picture book that does this; all the more impressive for the punch it packs into a tiny, concise package.

On a whim, I read a copy of Choose Your Days by Paula Wallace. I paused on each page, breathing in the beauty. And then I read it again. And again. I’m still reading it. And you should, too.


My Review

“Choose your days, make them sunny or gray,” says Old Bear, “the keeper of time and keys,” to little Corky. The days fly by quickly, with Corky growing old over just a few pages. As she reaches the end of her time, she pleads for more of it, for the “work undone… play postponed… music unsung.” But like us all, Corky cannot evade death, which she meets willingly–opening the door and walking into the arms of her friend, Old Bear.

Choose Your Days is a spare yet achingly beautiful meditation on impermanence–we “hold the key[s]” to our time, and only we have the power to give it the attention and gratitude it deserves. Wallace’s illustrations have a timeless, homespun aura, lending a gentle grace to a tale that takes on serious themes. Her depiction of death as a cottage full of starry sky and old friends is one that is as comforting as it is stunning.

This is my new favorite picture book, one I will be turning to again and again for the quiet reminder it offers. Young readers will have a lot to explore and process here–but this book offers a safe space to wander and wonder about the magic in each moment.

I want to give this book every single star in the sky.

Ages 3 & up.

Out April 12th!

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Sleeps, Squeeks

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Greg Pizzoli’s wonderful picture books (The Watermelon SeedNumber One SamTempleton Gets His Wish, etc.) are storytime-savers–with engaging text, perfect page turns, and large, vibrant illustrations, it’s no wonder that his books are a favorite among adults and kids alike. His upcoming book, Good Night Owl, is no different, and it is a welcome addition to any little one’s bedtime reading repertoire.


 

My Review

Have you ever read Owl at Home by Arnold Lobel? Pizzoli’s wonderful new picture book recalls the story “Strange Bumps” in the best way possible. In Lobel’s book, Owl is settling into bed when he is alarmed by the two “strange bumps” (his feet) under the covers of his bed. Chuckle-inducing antics ensue as Owl fearfully tries to escape the bumps and get some rest. In Pizzoli’s book, Owl is settling into bed when he hears a, “SQUEEK!” Like Lobel’s story, readers are almost immediately privy to the source (a wee mouse, in this case), and the clever dramatic irony as Owl tears his house apart trying to find the tiny noisemaker makes this book a winner, especially for reading aloud to younger audiences. Beautifully paced and boldly illustrated in Pizzoli’s signature screen print style (and pay attention to all the little objects in Owl’s house, referencing Pizzoli’s other books!), this book is a definite must for bedtime laughs.

Ages 3-6.

Out April 16th!

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Psst… If you haven’t read Owl At Home, do yourself a favor and do it. Now. Strange bumps and tear-water tea and an ice-cold houseguest–all the perfect blend of hilarity, weirdness, and poignant loneliness.

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Book Trailer

Beginnings, Ideas

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I’ll admit it: I’ve been that person who stopped doing what she loved because she didn’t have time. Because she was all out of ideas. I had been blogging about children’s books for a couple of years, and late last year, I hit a wall. Everything I wrote felt stale, stagnant, tired. I was in the midst of a job change, and my life transformed tremendously (and fantastically).

And now here I am, over a month into 2016, and I after one new beginning, I am so very ready for another. So welcome to The Bimulous Bookshelf–my new home for book reviews, musings, and yes, ideas. My old, beloved home was here.

I read Philip C. Stead’s new wonder of a book last night, and let’s just say it was a spark of creative inspiration; a gentle nudge toward the realization that the things that bring you joy should always be given attention.

My review:

Ideas Are All Around is a beautiful, meandering, wholly unique picture book that straddles the line between reality and fantasy in a most meditative way. “I don’t have any ideas today,” Stead begins. As he walks with Wednesday, he (and the reader) revel in the beauty that is the process of creating—ideas are out there (they are, in fact, all around), and they are just waiting for us to notice them, to imagine them. Fans of previous Stead books will delight in the winks and nods littered throughout the book: see the animals sitting on the train, reminiscent of the bus spread in Amos McGee; and you just might spot some familiar friends from Hello, My Name is Ruby hanging out in the branches. The collaged art, rendered from polaroids and prints and etchings and other media, are a breath of fresh air that make each page turn an exciting surprise. This is a book to linger over, relishing all of the little details and quiet revelations about the gentle power of imagination.

Ages 5 & up.

Out March 1st!

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Favorite Line:

There are a lot of birds out today.
I can hear them
but I’m not good at seeing them.

I have to imagine what they look like.