La Dolce Vita: Abby Reviews Paolo: Emperor of Rome

With Italy and its people in our hearts, Abby brings you Mac Barnett’s latest children’s book about a dog who yearns for freedom in the Eternal City. The book will be available March 31 in both Kindle and print format.

If you’ve never heard of Barnett, check out Barbara’s 2014 interview with him when the Caldecott winner spoke about what he called the literary bargain children happily make when choosing something to read.



Waiting for High Tide, by Nikki McClure, Abrams Books for Young Readers, $19.95, 48 pages, ages 6-9. (April 5, 2016)

Nikki McClure is to cut paper what Robert Sabuda is to pop-ups: the master of her domain. Her latest endeavor is based on a family summer outing to the Salish Sea near Olympia, Washington, when the McClure family built a raft lovingly named the Leaky Kon-Tiki, which the author explains in her endnotes.

In Waiting for High Tide, an anxious boy combs the beach for crabs, clams, and kingfishers. As he waits for the adults to finish constructing their watercraft, the boy observes various marine animals also at work, foraging for food, building nests, and waiting for the tide to change. The child’s narrative is simple and charming, revealing his intimate understanding of this special coastal area.

McClure’s cutouts are done from single sheets of black paper and contrast beautifully against large swaths of gray-blue and pops of pink. Though time and tide wait for no man, this book is a gorgeous ode to the pleasures of anticipation and the wonders of a summer spent by the sea.

The Forest Feast for Kids: Colorful Vegetarian Recipes That Are Simple to Make, by Erin Gleeson; Abrams Books for Young Readers, 111 pages, $19.95, ages 5 and up.

Do your kids balk at eating broccoli? Perhaps they adore fruits, but bemoan a lack of variety. Food blogger, photographer, and contributor to Better Homes and Gardens Erin Gleeson’s latest cookbook is geared to those most critical foodies with The Forest Feast for Kids. This kid-friendly follow-up to Gleeson’s New York Times bestselling The Forest Feast is full of uncomplicated recipes appealingly photographed to entice young eaters to try colorful foods and to roll up their sleeves and participate in meal prep.

I decide to put the book to the test–so many children’s cookbooks aren’t really designed with kids in mind, and though full of pretty pictures, seldom do the meals on the pages appear on actual dinner plates. My seven year old seized the opportunity, and immediately bookmarked ten desserts she said we had to try, but eventually settled on Watermelon Smoothies. For nutritional balance, I tabbed the Red Salad recipe, which includes tomatoes, bell peppers, apples, pomegranates, and radishes. Together, we made our grocery list, and all the items (minus the pomegranate) were easily procured at the nearby grocery store. Both recipes were prepared in less than ten minutes, and formed a lovely accompaniment to our main course of sauteed chickpeas and rice. Even my skeptical husband ate the fruity salad. Did I mention this all took place on a schoolnight? It is possible to involve kids with mealtime decisions and preparation, and can be accomplished in roughly thirty minutes. Healthy needn’t be time-consuming or dull, and Gleeson’s book is a cheerful reminder of that.

The author’s homespun watercolors of kitchen utensils and cutting techniques recall the work of cookbook author Susan Branch, and

accompany sunny photographs of salads, smoothies, and strawberry parfaits. Directions are simple to follow, and most recipes lend themselves to weeknight dinner preparations.

Encouraging children to eat properly is much easier when they’re involved in the meal-planning, and The Forest Feast for Kids is a bright and fanciful addition to the home cook’s library.

Try one of the recipes for yourself–Abrams has graciously provided the recipe for Watermelon Smoothies, posted above.

One Bear Extraordinaire, by Jayme McGowan; Abrams Books for Young Readers, $16.95, 32 pages, ages 3-7.

Debut children’s book author-illustrator Jayme McGowan has crafted a triumph of three-dimensional illustration in One Bear Extraordinaire, and her dedication is evident throughout. After rendering the characters using watercolors and colored pencils, McGowan cuts out each piece of paper and assembles the scenes inside a book-size paper theater, suspending the characters and scenery with toothpicks, twine, and even clothespins. Once satisfied with the setup, McGowan scrupulously photographs her creations using various lenses and camera settings. (Art teachers might find this book useful in teaching design concepts and paper cutting techniques.) It’s not a popup, but every page in the book is full of depth and complexity, the result of many hours spent getting every last piece just right. The tale itself is one of camaraderie and acceptance: A musical bear wakes one day and discovers that he can’t quite play the song he hears rumbling in his head. So he sets out across the forest, and along the way collects a banjo-playing fox, a raccoon with an accordion, and even a little wolf pup who can’t seem to play any instrument…yet. The story, while charming, is upstaged by the fantastic art. That said, I think McGowan will bring wonderful things to the world of children’s picture book illustration and I’m looking forward to what she does for her encore presentation. 

Lots of rain on the East Coast this weekend, which made me want to share this stunning retelling of the great biblical flood.  Noah’s Ark by Linda Falken (Abrams Books for Young Readers, $17.95) tells the classic story Noah and the flood, and is accompanied by stunning illustrations by Marc Chagall, Gustave Courbet and Currier & Ives. All the illustrations come from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which collaborated in the publication. Insightful commentary provides readers with further information on the art. An ideal gift for rain-soaked pals, and a reminder that the sun will come out again soon.

Full Speed Ahead! How Fast Things Go, by Crushiform; Abrams Books for Young Readers, $18.95, 64 pages, ages 4-8.

This bright and zippy book compares the speed of movement for various animals and transportation. For example, at 50km/h (30 mph,) a blue whale coasts along at the same rate as a cargo ship, while the Apollo 11 spacecraft cruises alone at 40,000km/h (25,000 mph). In each spread, the rate of speed is given in huge type on the left, and is accompanied by an equally bold image on the right, and the rate of speed increases incrementally. (The speed is given first in kilometers, then in miles per hour in slightly smaller size.)  Originally published in French under the title À Toute Vitesse, Parisian-based Cruschiform studios created the bold illustrations using spot color printing technique. Similar to screen painting, spot color printing was used by artists in the 1950s to reproduce images, and here, the bold colors and retro illustrations are eye-catching and easily accessible to young readers. The glossary includes further information about the moving objects, as well as a definition of speed. It is a perfect introductory picture dictionary for little speedsters.  Onward and upward.