Counting Crows…and Robins, Jays, and Chickadees

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Copyright 2019 Susan Richmond and Stephanie Coleman. Reproduced with permission from Peachtree.

Bird Count, by Susan Edwards Richmond, illustrated by Stephanie Fizer Coleman, Peachtree Publishers; $17.95, ages 4-8. October 2019.

Fall birdwatching is more challenging now that mating season is over–the bright plumage of some birds gives way to more muted tones–but scouting them out is excellent preparation for the annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count. In Susan Edward Richmond’s first children’s book, Bird Count, Ava, whose name is Latin for “like a bird,” is tasked with recording and identifying birds for the wintertime roundup.

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Copyright 2019 Susan Richmond and Stephanie Coleman. Reproduced with permission from Peachtree.

A bird can only be counted if at least two people confirm hearing or seeing it, so Ava must pay close attention with her eyes and ears. The singsongy text flies with ease from one page to the next, while young readers can keep abreast of Ava’s bird tally in the page margins. Stephanie Coleman’s deft illustrations of mallards, mergansers, and merlins prove the adage that practice makes perfect: last year she challenged herself to paint one bird a day for 100 days. (See the entire flock here.)

A joyous introduction to birdwatching while also fostering a love of the outdoors, Bird Count will delight fledgling ornithologists as well as wise old owls.


Fantastic Flowers and Where to Find Them

Fantastic Flowers, by Susan Stockdale: Peachtree Publishers, $17.99, 32 pages, ages 2-5.

It’s beginning to feel a lot like spring, and a host of new non-fiction books are popping up like a field of crocuses and daffodils. Fantastic Flowers is a charmingly playful presentation of seventeen flowers found across the globe, and Stockdale’s bubbly illustrations are a lively match for the simple, lyrical descriptions–the Mediterranean bumblbee orchid that graces the front cover looks like a pair of magenta smiling honeybees, and other flowers resemble baboons, ballerinas, and pineapples. The book gently introduces young readers to the concept of object identification and encourages close observation skills, while back matter offers further scientific explanation about plants and pollinators.

Fantastic Flowers offers cheerful anticpiation for the forthcoming season. 

Text and art copyright 2017 Susan Stockdale. Reproduced with permission from Peachtree Publishers. 


Holiday Gift Guide

It’s gift-giving season, and there’s not a moment to lose! We present a rundown of the year’s best gifts for children from 1 to 92.

The Nursery Rhyme Book, by Andrew Lang; The Folio Society, $59.95, 280 pages, all ages. 


Acclaimed Scottish folklorist Andrew Lang (1844-1912) scoured the world of children’s literature to compile volumes of stories, and this charming, thematically-organized collection of over 300 nursery rhymes includes well-known ditties like “Hickory, Dickory, Dock” and “Jack and Jill,” as well as lesser-known rhymes like “Ring the Bell” and “Old Betty Blue.”  Introduced by award-winning children’s book author Michael Rosen and accompanied by over 100 black and white illustrations by L. Leslie Brooke and six color paintings by Debra McFarlane, The Nursery Rhyme Book is a beautiful gift fit to stand the test of time.

*N.B.:Folio titles are only available through the Folio Society. Order early to ensure on-time holiday delivery.

The Nursery Rhyme Book by Andrew Lang. Illustrated by Debra McFarlane and L. Leslie Brooke. Copyright 2016 Debra McFarlane. Reproduced with permission from The Folio Society.


The Christmas Story.  Copyright 2016 by Robert Sabuda. Reproduced by permission of Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

The Christmas Story, by Robert Sabuda; Candlewick Press, $35.00, 12 pages, all ages.

The birth story of Christ is told in six deceptively simple pop-ups rendered in stark white and gold, and though this book is delicate–the manger scene is a remarkable feat of construction–The Christmas Story would make a magnificent present to those celebrating the holiday. Sabuda gave Hanukah a similar treatment in 2011 when he and poet Michael Rosen explored the 2,000 year-old Festival of Lights.

The Christmas Boot, by Lisa Wheeler, illustrated by Jerry Pinkney; Dial Books, $17.99, 32 pages, ages 3-7.


A version of this book was published ten years ago (same author and illustrator) and it’s been updated for 2016. Caldecott Medal winner Jerry Pinkney’s masterful illustrations are a perfect accompaniment to Wheeler’s story about a lonely but warm-hearted woman whose generosity earns the admiration of a certain red-dressed sleigh driver.

The Christmas Boot. Image Copyright 2016 Jerry Pinkney. Reproduced with permission from the publisher. 

The Complete Adventures of Curious George: 75th Anniversary Edition, by Margret and H.A. Rey; Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; $34.99, 432 pages, ages 2-8.


At seventy-five, George is still a curious little monkey, and this banana-yellow hardbound volume with thick red spine will quickly settle into nightly bedtime rotation. In addition to the seven original tales, the book comes with a free audiobook code to listen to actor John Krasinski read the stories aloud. A lovely gift for adventurous grandchildren everywhere.

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Little One, by Jo Weaver. Copyright 2016 Jo Weaver. Reproduced with permission from the publisher.
Little One, by Jo Weaver. Copyright 2016 Jo Weaver. Reproduced with permission from the publisher.

Little One, by Jo Weaver; Peachtree Publishers, $16.95, 32 pages, ages 2-6. 

Debut picture book author-illustrator Jo Weaver hits it out of the park with this lovely examination of the pull between a mother’s love and a child’s need to develop independence. Simple, singing text accompanied by Weaver’s soft black and white pencil illustrations highlight the beauty in nature and in family bonds. A perfect read-aloud while snuggling on a cold winter’s night.

Lego Pop-Up: A Journey Through the LEGO Universe, by Matthew Reinhart; Scholastic, $29.99, 10 pages, ages 7-10. 

Paper engineer Matthew Reinhart takes readers on a tour through the LEGO galaxy in this bright and bold pop-up book. Castles, dinosaurs, and ninjas all leap from the pages accompanied by short bursts of text. A must for LEGO fans of all ages.


Lego Pop-Up, copyright 2016 Matthew Reinhart. Reproduced with permission from Scholastic.

Election Day Quick Picks

So many wonderful titles appear in the fall and winter months that it’s hard to keep up with all of them. To wit, here are four fantastic titles sure to brighten your day, no matter who wins at the ballot box:


Madeline Finn and the Library Dog, by Lisa Papp; Peachtree Publishers, $16.95, 32 pages, ages 4-7 (October 2016).

Reluctant readers, rejoice: Madeline Finn hates to read, too. That is, until she meets Bonnie, a docile, patient library dog whose calm, quiet presence encourages the young girl to keep on trying, despite making mistakes. After all, practice makes progress. Award-winning author-illustrator Lisa Papp makes a warm and furry case for canine companions as literary sidekicks in this fun and uplifting tale.


(Copyright 2016 Lisa Papp. Image courtesy of Peachtree publishers.)

Sweaterweather and Other Short Stories, by Sara Varon; First Second Books, $19.99, 128 pages, ages 8-12 (February 2016).


Sara Varon is something of a cult figure for the pre-teen set: her offbeat cartoons and graphic novels are deceptively clever and engaging. Fans will find much to enjoy in this re-issue from 2003 of seventeen illustrated essays exploring the creative process, short stories, and, of course, comics, in which cats, ducks, and elephants share real estate in Brooklyn alongside their human friends. Updated with Varon’s notes for a new generation.

Dinosaurs in Disguise, by Stephen Krensky, illustrated by Lynn Munsinger; HMH Books for Young Readers, $17.99, 32 pages, ages 2-5 (October 2016).


Veteran author-illustrator duo Stephen Krensky and Lynn Munsinger have teamed up to explore a tantalizing hypothesis: What if the dinosaurs never actually went instinct? A little boy imagines where the giant lizards may have hidden throughout human history, from ancient Egypt to modern times. Expect much laughter with this lovable read-aloud.


(Text copyright 2016 Stephen Krensky, art copyright 2016 Lynn Munsinger. Reproduced with permission from HMH Books for Young Readers.) 

We Found a Hat, by Jon Klassen; Candlewick Press, $17.99, 56 pages, ages 3-7 (October 2016).


Two desert-dwelling turtles come upon a hat in the sand that bears a strange resemblance to the one worn by The Man in the Curious George series. Both creatures take turns wearing the topper, and decide the best thing to do is leave it for its owner. But will they? This is a Klassen book, so the resolution to the great moral conundrum plays out with delightful poker-faced quirkiness. In this finale to the Hat series, don’t be discouraged by the length–fifty-six pages seems long, but the pacing is just right for indecisive turtles.


(We Found a Hat. Copyright © 2016 by Jon Klassen. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.)

Remembering 9/11

 @911day @peachtreepublishers @peachtreepub

Seven and a Half Tons of Steel, by Janet Nolan, illustrated by Thomas Gonzalez; Peachtree Publishers, $17.95, 36 pages, ages 6-10.

There’s been plenty of debate on the best way to discuss 9/11 with youngsters, and even after fifteen years it’s still difficult for many adults to process it, let alone talk about it with children. Full disclosure: I am not ready to have that conversation with my seven-year-old, and probably won’t be for some time. Still, those looking for a sensitive yet compelling picture book highlighting one way Americans found strength in the face of adversity, Seven and a Half Tons of Steel would be my pick.

Janet Nolan’s narration is simple and driven mostly by Thomas Gonzalez’s (Toad Weather; 14 Crows for America) dramatic artwork. The story starts on the endpapers, where a young schoolboy gazes up at a plane careening through a robin’s-egg-blue sky, headed for the World Trade Center jutting out of horizon. It’s a different perspective than one might expect–the boy is in the foreground, the plane barely painted onto the top of the picture, and the buildings almost an afterthought. It’s a section easily skipped, because at first glance the image is almost serene: a boy holding his baseball glove and books, heading to school. And then we all know what happens next.

After the towers collapse, Nolan traces the retrieval of a steel beam from the wreckage, which is then shipped to a New Orleans shipyard to be turned into the bow of the USS New York. There’s no smooth sailing for this journey; Hurricane Katrina slowed down the work considerably, but eventually the beam becomes a bow, the entire endeavor illustrating how men and women of this country united to heal by turning remnants of a disaster into a symbol of strength.

Strength forged through sacrifice. Never forget.


Toad Weather, by Sandra Markle, illustrated by Thomas Gonzalez; Peachtree Publishers, $16.95, 32 pages, ages 4-7.

Sometimes it rains cats and dogs. In Philadelphia, it rains toads. Actually, the wet weather brings about the annual vernal toad migration, and on one particularly rainy March day little Ally and her family head out into the streets to see something spectacular – for a few weeks each spring, millions of toads across the country head to water in order to find mates and lay eggs, and the Roxborough neighborhood in Philadelphia is the real-life setting for this migration – there are even volunteers who set up ‘Toad Detours’ to ensure that the amphibians make it across the busy roads. (Toads flood the streets en route to nearby the ponds and reservoir.) Award-winning veteran author Sandra Markle has written over two hundred books for children, and each one is a treat – Toad Weather’s text is a lyrical sing-songy ode to a city transformed by rain, and to the everyday magic that takes place right at our feet. Gonzalez’s luminous pastel and watercolor images of wet toads and earthworms evoke the sense of wonder when we find magic in our everyday surroundings.  Don’t skip the informative author’s notes that explain how dedicated groups ensure the life cycle continues for these little croakers.  

@PeachtreePub It’s spring, and my addition to #TBThursday is this review from March 2015–Toad Weather, by Sandra Markle, illustrated by Thomas Gonzalez.

Gone to the Dogs
Two middle-grade readers for kids who know that dogs are loyal to the end. 

A Handful of Stars, by Cynthia Lord; Scholastic Press, $16.99, 184 pages, ages 10-13.

Every summer, migrant families travel from as far as Mexico to harvest blueberries in a remote part of Downeast Maine, and local residents generally don’t interact with them. That is, until one afternoon, when Lily’s blind retriever Lucky runs away and into the blueberry fields. Salma Santiago lures the dog back with her peanut butter sandwich, and from that moment on, Lily and Salma become friends. Salma wants to enter the Blueberry Queen pageant, but does she have the courage to do it? Newbery Honor Author Cynthia Lord (Rules) tackles such themes as prejudice, courage, and friendship with compassion and grace, and as a Maine resident herself, descriptions of this wild and wonderful area of New England are wonderfully accurate.

Finder, Coal Mine Dog, by Alison Hart, illustrated by Michael G. Montgomery; Peachtree Publishers, $12.95, 181 pages, ages 7-10.

In 1909, 259 coal miners died in a tunnel fire in Cherry, Illinois, becoming the third most deadly mine disaster in U.S. history. In this fictionalized thriller, readers meet Finder, a dog who pulls a cart in those dangerous mines. His young owner Thomas works too, trying to pay off his deceased parents’ debts. Soon enough, fire breaks out, and the unlikely duo find themselves in a race against time to save fellow miners. Told from the point of view of the dog, Alison Hart’s latest canine thriller in her Dog Chronicles series is action-packed, while also offering children a look at what life was like for children and their pets in America a century ago. Michael G. Montgomery’s pen and ink illustrations capture the fast pace of the tale. A map of the mine, notes about the actual fire, mining, child and animal labor bring this poignant moment in American history to life.

About Habitats: Polar Regions, by Cathryn Sill, illustrated by John Sill; Peachtree Publishers, $16.95, 32 pages, ages 2-7.

Barack Obama made history this week as the first American president to cross the Arctic Circle. Stopping in places like Kotzebue, Alaska, the trip highlighted the administration’s efforts to help coastal fishing communities battle climate change and to also spread the word on rapidly rising oceans and temperatures. In recognition of his visit, today’s book About Habitats: Polar Regions is a perfect invitation for young explorers to learn about the Arctic and Antarctica. Husband-and-wife duo Cathryn and John Sill’s award-winning About Habitat series offers simple explanations of complex ecosystems with short, declarative sentences in large font. (Mrs. Sill was an elementary school teacher for three decades, so she has a pretty good idea of what grabs young minds.) John Sill’s wildlife paintings are striking and inviting, and each painting is accompanied by plate descriptions in the afterword. The whole is rounded out by a glossary, bibliography, and websites. The delicate flora and fauna of the polar regions are on the front lines of climate change, and this book will serve as a powerful, beautiful inspiration to budding scientists.

Seeing Spots – Thursday quickpicks

We found three picture books full of circles, spots and dots that will have readers seeing stars!

Spectacular Spots, by Susan Stockdale; Peachtree Publishers, $15.95, 32 pages, ages 1-5.

Gliding snails, snakes and slugs all have spots, and in this charming follow-up to Susan Stockdale’s Stripes of All Types readers also learn the purpose of these shapes. Large and cheerful paintings of all sorts of animals are accompanied by short easy-to-follow rhymes.  A cute matching game rounds out this sweet introduction to spotted creatures.

Spots in A Box, by Helen Ward; Templar Books, $16.99, 40 pages, ages 2-5.

British National Art Library Award winner Helen Ward’s longstanding love of illustrating charming critters (Town Mouse and Country Mouse; Varmints) continues in this story about a spotless guinea fowl. Feeling left out, the plucky bird sends away for spots of his own, and what arrives aren’t exactly what he had anticipated. Spots in A Box is a sensory feast – Ward’s tight prose and trademark watercolors are as meticulous as ever, accompanied by paper cutouts and spots that feel like pressed sequins. A tour de force.

Information Graphics: Space, by Simon Rogers, illustrated by Jennifer Daniel; Big Picture Press, $17.99, 80 pages, ages 8-12.  

The latest addition to the neon-hued fact-filled Information Graphics series deals with the universe.  Seven tabbed sections cover everything from explaining the solar system to how humans explore space. Dynamic duo Simon Rogers (author of the Guardian’s Datablog) and New York Times designer Jennifer Daniel have made studying the heavens an enlightening endeavor filled with fun. 

Rodeo Red, by Maripat Perkins, illustrated by Molly Idle; Peachtree Publishers, $16.95, 32 pages, ages 4-8.

If you use Google’s search engine, you probably noticed the nifty animated Doodle celebrating the 155th anniversary of the Pony Express. In honor of those brave Western riders, today we’re looking at a cheeky children’s book with some cowboy flair. Debut children’s book author Maripat Perkins introduces us to Red, a fiery little cowgirl who keeps order in her neck of the woods with the help of her trusty hound dog Rusty. One day, the Sheriff brings home a tiny deputy whom Red nicknames Sideswiping Slim, and eventually, the little whippersnapper starts to mosey into her territory. Red deals with Slim the best way she knows how – but the Sheriff doesn’t approve. How will these two ever get along? Perkins’ examination of dealing with family newcomers is playful and full of cowboy lingo sure to delight rambunctious rugrats. Adorable and inviting pencil drawings, courtesy of Caldecott medal-winning illustrator Molly Idle (Flora and the Flamingo; Camp Rex), are full of warmth and whimsy – a perfect accompaniment for this ruckus-raising hootenanny.