I Love Mom, by Joanna Walsh and Judi Abbot; Simon & Schuster, $16.99, 32 pages, ages 2-5.

Joanna Walsh and Judi Abbot team up for their third children’s book, this time dedicated to celebrating moms. Like their previous collaborations (The Biggest Kiss; The Perfect Hug) I Love Mom is a snuggly, feel-good story aimed at very young children. Here, tiger cubs demonstrate all the wonderful things their mother does: transforming chairs into thrones, baking cakes, and making skinned knees better with a kiss and a hug.  Judi Abbot’s warm and inviting illustrations fill the oversize pages and delight the eye. 

Unfortunately, while the goal was to recreate the success of the duo’s previous read-alouds, this text feels disjointed and awkward: one page extols the mother tiger’s ability to create fantastic games, then the next page she’s packing up a messy box and trucking her charges someplace. (On my first read-through, I thought I had skipped a page.)  Rhymes such as “No one brings the sky closer to the seesaw” are strange as well. Also, the text goes back and forth between “me” and “we.” This could be confusing for young readers.  Fans of Walsh and Abbot will love it regardless, but readers new to the collection might do well to consider one of their earlier offerings.  

Cat’s Meow

Banish the dog days of summer with these titles by two British author-illustrators that are just puurr-fect for summer road trips, bedtime, and anytime.

“Matilda’s Cat,” by Emily Gravett; Simon & Schuster, $16.99, 32 pages, ages 3-5. (June 2014)

Matilda’s cat doesn’t like tea parties, ghost stories, climbing trees, or drawing. Find out what the adorable creature does enjoy in this latest offering from our perennially favorite author and illustrator, Emily Gravett. (Previous titles include Again! and The Odd Egg.) Charming illustrations of an exuberant, cherubic little girl and her faithful feline are rendered in Gravett’s trademark pen and watercolor style.  Children will relish in the playful mischief to be discovered on each page. If you’re not sure which books to pack for summer traveling, do include this lighthearted, lovely ode to unrequited love– it’s a snappy read, and will not lose its charm after being in heavy rotation.

“Naughty Kitty,” by Adam Stower; Orchard Books, $16.99, 32 pages, ages 4-6. (May 2014)

Adam Stower follows up his popular Silly Doggy! with a case of mistaken identity. If somehow you miss the cover image of a skulking tiger, be sure to read the newspaper-styled endpapers which relate the critical backstory of a large cat  missing from the local zoo.

Meanwhile, little Lily desperately wants a dog, but receives a cat  instead. While the girl adores her wide-eyed kitty, she can’t understand how such a small creature manages to make major messes, some right under her nose. Lily blames the silently suffering kitty, while its larger, striped doppelganger runs amok on the property. Stower portrays all the characters – including the escaped predator – with wide eyes and humorous facial expressions, all done in watercolors.  Tongue in cheek humor and a happy ending will keep the whole family returning to   this book.

NEST images ©2014 Jorey Hurley. Reproduced with permission from Simon & Schuster

Nest, by Jorey Hurley; Simon & Schuster, $16.99, 40 pages, ages 0-5.

Debut children’s book author and illustrator JoreyHurley has crafted a lovely book about the life cycle of a robin, while incorporating a look at the seasons and raising a family. Starting in spring, two robins build a nest, lay an egg, and the family grows alongside blooming leaves and blades of grass.  Hurley’s illustrations are sharp visual feasts, rendered entirely in Photoshop yet looking very much like paper collage.  Most illustrations are double spreads with one word defining the action.  Like many great children’s books nowadays, this one includes author’s notes where robin nesting and incubation habits are explored in greater detail for adult readers.

 “Brimsby’s Hats,” by Andrew Prahin; Simon & Schuster, $15.99 40 pages, ages 4-8.

Another Nor’easter is snarling travel and closing schools along much of the East Coast this week, so how better to take the snow in stride than by looking at a lovely new picture book that examines love, loss and  friendship, no matter what the weather brings. 

In this snowy story, we meet a hatter whose daily routine consists of drinking tea and creating fabulous toppers alongside his best friend, and this is how he happily leads his life for many years.  One day, his pal announces that he is leaving town to realize his dream of sailing the high seas.  The hatter continues making hats and drinking tea, but it’s not the same.

After many days of quiet and solitude, the lonely hat maker sets out to find new friends, and comes upon a large tree filled with birds busily shoveling snow out of their nests.  What follows is a quirky examination of how friendships are built and maintained. 

Debut author-illustrator Andrew Prahin weaves a timeless tale with modern imagery – all the art was created in Adobe Photoshop. 

Enjoy this book with little loved ones, snuggled up by the fire or under a wintry windowpane, and dream of spring. 

Bitty bats

“Nightsong,” by Ari Berk, illustrated by Loren Long; Simon & Schuster, $17.99, 48 pages, ages 4-6. 


Chiro the bat is about to fly outside the family cave for the first time, and he unsure whether he is ready to flap away without his mother.  How will he find his way in the dark night?  Mother bat offers Chiro sage advice before releasing him into the air. “Sense is the song you sing out into the world, and the world sings back to you. Sing, and the world will answer. That is how you’ll see.”  These magical, slightly spooky worlds are familiar territory for Ari Berk, author of middle-years books “The Secret History of Hobgoblins” and “The Runes of Elfland”.  A moody nocturnal landscape is punctuated by bursts of saturated color and light – a double-page spread of Chiro soaring over the ocean is especially lovely.  These and the inky black backgrounds take shape under the  steady hand of award-winning illustrator Loren Long.  A quick explanation of the inspiration for the flying mammal’s name rounds out this tale.