Snug as a Pug in a Rug


Pug Meets Pig, by Sue Lowell Gallion, illustrated by Joyce Wan; Beach Lane Books, $17.99, 40 pages, ages 0-5. 

Debut picture book author Sue Lowell Gallion has struck a sweet note in this story about accepting and even embracing new (and unwanted) arrivals. Here, Pug is king of his castle; everything he could possibly want is at his beck and call–ample food, large green lawn, and a comfy place to lay his head. One day, Pig arrives, dolled up in a green frock complete with a Peter Pan collar, and the porcine intruder proceeds to interrupt Pug’s perfect routine, driving the poor creature bonkers. Very young readers will delight at wondering whether this unlikely pair can ever kiss and make up, and the story is a fun examination of how to deal with change. Pug Meets Pig would make a brilliant read-aloud for soon-to-be older siblings. Joyce Wan’s (You Are My Cupcake; We Belong Together) cute, chubby illustrations of the critters subtly reveal the similarities between them.

Blue on Blue, by Dianne White, illustrated by Beth Krommes; Beach Lane Books, $17.99, 48 pages, ages 2-5.

Thunderstorms have a powerful and sometimes frightening impact on young children, but Blue on Blue dispels some of that apprehension through rhyme and rhythm. Dianne White’s first childrens book describes the swell of an impending storm with minimal, well-chosen words. In fact, the text is so spare and the pacing so quick that I am surprised at the recommended age range, which is  five to eight year olds.  It is a perfect selection for toddlers, however – just long enough to keep little children entertained, and White’s word repetition reinforces key concepts. Caldecott Medal winner Beth Krommes’ (The House in the Night; Grandmother Winter) instantly recognizable scratchboard and watercolors of children splashing and jumping in puddles are full of rich detail and are a welcome celebration of rainstorms.  

Mr. Cornell’s Dream Boxes, by Jeanette Winter; Beach Lane Press, $17.99, 40 pages, ages 4-8.

Jeanette Winter’s latest biographical picture book (Biblioburro: A True Story from Colombia; Malala, a Brave Girl from Pakistan)  is about Joseph Cornell, a twentieth-century artist and sculptor based in Queens, New-York. He was famous for creating collages and three-dimensional artwork called assemblage, where he filled handmade boxes with his artwork and found objects. Cornell also had a soft spot for children, and at his last exhibit, held at the Cooper Union School of Art and Architecture in 1972, Cornell instructed the curators to hang his artwork three feet from the ground so that children could better see the tiny worlds Cornell created.  Spare, precise text accompanies dreamy, somewhat surreal images of dancers in snow, pipes blowing soap bubbles, and frosty pink cupcakes. Despite being restrained by two dimensions, Winter’s renderings provide a surprising perception of depth, and are alive with colors, shapes and patterns.  This is an inviting and magical exploration of an artist who created dream worlds wrought miniature. Art enthusiasts of all ages may be inspired to create their own memory boxes and dream of fantastic places much as Cornell once did.

MAMA BUILT A LITTLE NEST  images © 2014 Steve Jenkins. Reproduced with permission from Beach Lane Books 

Mama Built a Little Nest, by Jennifer Ward, illustrated by Steve Jenkins; Beach Lane Books, $16.99, 40 pages, ages 4-7.

Veteran nature writer Jennifer Ward (I Love Dirt!) teams up with Caldecott Honoree Steven Jenkins (What Do You Do with a Tail Like This?) to showcase the different ways birds build nests using all sorts of tufted materials. Each spread features a different bird with a read-aloud rhyme on the left, and supporting information for grownups and older readers on the right page. Jenkins’ masterful collages of woodpeckers, weaverbirds and wrens are large, bright and inviting. The author’s notes elaborate on the architectural ingenuity of nest building and also include resources for further avian exploration.

Exploring Outdoors

“underGROUND,” by Denise Fleming; Beach Lane Books, $17.99, 40 pages,
ages 3-5.

Two weeks into the first full month of fall we celebrate the harvests of the season and the changing multicolor landscape as the forests prepare for winter. Here, we peek at burrowing critters that call the forest home in this wonderfully earthy picture book by Denise Fleming. The boldly pigmented illustrations were created by a papermaking process known as pulp painting, where the artist pours colored cotton fibers through stencils, giving the turtles, squirrels, moles and salamanders an organic appearance. Close-up examination of these creatures (often hiding in plain sight) invites young readers to explore their backyards.


Slippery garter snakes, slow box turtles and wily foxes are all diggers of some sort, and the rhyming text flows with their tunnels that travel across the pages. The “creature identification” glossary details the animals’ burrowing habits in greater detail. (Many newly published non-fiction books for young readers have well-written glossaries geared to older readers and adults. This is fantastic for both parents and the eager budding scientist.) Twenty-one animals appear in this glossary and their digging habits documented concisely.