Julie Hale

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For National Poetry Month, we’re highlighing new collections from four American poets that offer fresh insights into the state of the nation. These visionary writers provide unique perspectives on both inner and outer conflicts: the horrors of war, the decline of the environment, the challenges of relationships.

SPIRIT OF '76
Dan Chiasson moves with sleight-of-hand smoothness through varied poetic forms in ­Bicentennial. This shape-shifting collection features a pair of plays, a number of compact, epigrammatic poems and longer pieces that unfold over the course of several movements. Cultural references abound as Chiasson revisits his adolescent years in 1970s Vermont, dropping allusions to cartoons, sports and drugs. “Tackle Football” offers an unforgettable verbal sketch of high-schoolers playing in waist-high snow: “We’re Pompeian before Pompeii was hot. / We have the aspect of the classic dead / Or of stranded, shivering astronauts. . . . ”

Chiasson trades the touchstones of adolescence for the paradoxes of parenting in poems like “The Flume,” in which he’s all too aware of “The future doing its usual loop-de-loop, / The sons all turning into fathers.” Chiasson never knew his own father, whose enduring absence seems to be the impulse behind works that explore symmetry and balance—poems in which equilibrium is achieved, and relationships are complementary. In “Nowhere Fast,” the parallelism is literal: “O my compass / Your wilderness / Awaits reply: / Say you and I / Will find our way / Eventually— / Like see and saw, / Or sea and sky.” Chiasson is a master of poetic construction, and his facility with form is on full display in this rewarding collection.

A COLORFUL TAPESTRY
Although the title might indicate otherwise, Maureen N. McLane’s excellent new collection, This Blue, is filled with green imagery: a “tapestried field” is “mossed ferned & grassed,” and the earth itself is “embroidered” with all manner of plants and trees. McLane writes with a deep awareness of geological time, history and human behavior, and the ways in which they’ve influenced the world. Poems like “Another Day in This Here Cosmos” address mankind’s abusive relationship with our world: “A park’s a way to keep / what’s gone enclosed forever.” Instead of being in sync with nature, McLane says, we’re “commuters” to it.

McLane makes delightful use of contemporary syntax. Contractions and abbreviations—sd stands in for said, yr for your—appear at unexpected points in her brief, sculpted lines. Her insights are often sociological in their precision. In “Replay / Repeat,” a playful and profound poem that examines the endurance of human habits, kids do what they’ve always done—“climb trees they’ve eyed for years / in the park, their bicycles / braced against granite.” Frisbees “saucering / the summer into a common / past” point to shared experience and collective memory. Again and again in these radiant, probing poems, McLane excavates the layers of contemporary experience and gets at the heart of what it means to be human.

THE POETRY OF REALITY
W.S. Di Piero’s Tombo could be read as the work of what the author calls a “vagrant imagination,” a mind that “rushes toward the world / in fear of forgetting anything: / witness and invent, it says. . . .” Di Piero seems to possess just such a psyche—capacious and insatiable and motivated by wonderment. He’s a precise recorder of everyday experience for whom small moments are sublime. In “Other Ways to Heaven,” he ponders “systemic pleasures”—preparing breakfast, reading a book—that in their regularity are remarkable because they “make us feel at home in our elusive lives.”

Many of the poems are prompted by a sense of inquiry, an effort to make sense of the world: “Let me be fool enough / to read meaning into / the twiggy lightning that cracks / the darkening distance / such meaning as animals / like me need to see.” In “Bruised Fruit,” Di Piero explains that his intention as a writer is to take readers “beyond / the sleepiness of selfhood” and “to give a right voice to scenes, to breakage and joy, / to plain plates of jam and bread.” In his reverence for details, Di Piero reveals what we might otherwise miss: “the unspeakable beauty of facts.”

ARMS AND THE MAN
U.S. Army veteran Kevin Powers explores the brutality of war in Letter Composed During a Lull in the Fighting, an urgent, haunting book that—like his acclaimed novel The Yellow Birds—draws on his experiences as a machine gunner in Iraq. The disconnection between his reality and civilian reality warps the way he sees the world. In “Separation,” he eyes some “Young Republicans” in a bar: “I want to rub their clean / bodies in blood. I want my rifle / and I want them to know / how scared I am still . . . when / I notice it is gone.”

Other poems find Powers pondering his own pre-war history. He writes effectively about his Southern boyhood and offers striking characterizations of his parents. As a whole, this collection is masterful—composed and controlled, taut and contained, with a sense of tamped-down passion that can stop the reader cold.

For National Poetry Month, we’re highlighing new collections from four American poets that offer fresh insights into the state of the nation. These visionary writers provide unique perspectives on both inner and outer conflicts: the horrors of war, the decline of the environment, the challenges of relationships.

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It’s never too early to start teaching kids about the importance of friendship. Offering lessons to live by, three delightful new picture books demonstrate the rewards of team effort and the power of partnership. As these clever tales prove, pitching in to help a pal—whether it’s with a stroke-of-genius idea or a simple word of cheer—can make a world of difference. That’s what friends are for!

A HIGH-FLYING TALE OF TEAMWORK
No goal is unattainable if you’ve got a gang of buddies to lend a hand. Of course it helps if they have smarts and pluck, like the animals that assist their penguin pal in Kerstin Schoene’s A Mountain of Friends. Giraffe, toucan, elephant, snake—all are concerned about the little penguin, who, attired in a tiny black hat and matching bow tie, slouches glumly on a chunk of ice. This bird clearly has the blues! Why? The flippers he possesses instead of wings prevent him from taking to the air. “Just once I want to soar above the clouds,” the penguin says.

In a fun twist, readers are prompted to rotate the book, which takes on a vertical orientation as the resourceful animals assemble themselves into a precarious pile that reaches to the sky. And who’s at the very top? The penguin! Poised on the tip of the elephant’s trunk, he’s able to enjoy—at last—the feeling of flight. Rendered vividly in chalk, pencil and watercolor, Schoene’s furred and feathered group shows just how important it is to support a friend in need. With its irresistible illustrations and inspiring upshot, this story soars.

A HOUSE BUILT ON FRIENDSHIP
Willingness to compromise is a terrific quality in a friend, as demonstrated by the companion-critters in Kit Chase’s new book, Oliver’s Tree. There’s Lulu, a dainty little bird, and Charlie, a trim, gray bunny. Both take to the trees in the forest with ease. If only Oliver, their elephant friend, could join them! During games of hide-and-seek, Oliver, with his big, gray bulk, is at a decided disadvantage. Lulu’s so light she can vanish up in the branches, and Charlie’s so slight he can hide inside a stump, but Oliver’s weight is too great for any tree. His attempt to scale a low-hanging limb ends in a crash.

Thoroughly dejected, Oliver stalks off and falls asleep. But Lulu and Charlie have an idea. On a broad, flat tree stump, using sticks and moss, leaves and rocks, they build a whimsical house. Size-wise—“not too small and not too tall”—it suits the trio to a T, and Oliver soon joins his buddies there for an inaugural game of pirates. Problem solved! Chase does a wonderful job of depicting the riches of nature—delicate mushrooms and vibrant blooms—with ink and watercolors. Her pink-cheeked woodland pals make this tale of cooperation a winner.

FRIENDS IN FLIGHT
Lita Judge’s too-funny Flight School is the tale of a misfit (another anatomically challenged penguin, as it happens) who, with the help of his mates, graduates with—there’s no better way to say it—flying colors. School is in full swing, and birds of every feather have gathered near a dock to try out their wings, including one latecomer—a penguin who’s more than ready to soar. “I have the soul of an eagle,” he says. Teacher, a stern-looking bird with a pince-nez balanced on his beak, regards his tardy pupil doubtfully but allows him to join the group.

After weeks of practice, the class is ready for flight day. Penguin takes off, but his flippers fail, and he belly-flops into the ocean. When he resurfaces, he’s ready to quit. But his chums come up with a clever way of getting him into the air. In the end, Penguin is so happy with his flight-school experience that he brings a new student to class—an ostrich “with the soul of a swallow.” Uh-oh.

Ford’s storytelling genius shines through her richly detailed watercolor and pencil illustrations. Her birds have character to spare. Overall grade: A+.

It’s never too early to start teaching kids about the importance of friendship. Offering lessons to live by, three delightful new picture books demonstrate the rewards of team effort and the power of partnership. As these clever tales prove, pitching in to help a pal—whether it’s with a stroke-of-genius idea or a simple word of cheer—can make a world of difference. That’s what friends are for!

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Featuring creatures with outsize personalities whose slightly subversive behavior is hugely hilarious, the picture books featured below are about defying expectations and bending the rules. Young readers, show the world who you really are!

Delightfully demonstrating the adage that there’s “nothing to fear but fear itself,” Jill Esbaum’s I Am Cow, Hear Me Moo! is a triumphant tale of self-reliance that features, of all creatures, a cow. In the barnyard one day, Nadine boasts about her own bravery, impressing her cow comrades, Starla and Nanette. To test her courage, the two suggest a trek to the forest. Nadine is game, although the sight of the woods—overgrown, dark and dense—quickly sparks fear in her heart. Nadine discovers that she loves the woods, but when she becomes separated from her friends and night falls, she’s terrified. With a twitch of her own tail, she spooks herself and takes off at a mad trot. But she soon bumps into her buddies, who were hopelessly lost. Convinced that Nadine saved them, they celebrate her as a hero—not quite the truth, Nadine knows, but close enough! Esbaum’s rollicking, rhymed lines give this inspiring story momentum, while Gus Gordon’s clever mixed-media illustrations will draw the kiddos in for a closer look. Who knew that fear could be fun?

HOLLYWOOD STARS
And the Best Comedy Award goes to . . . Richard T. Morris and Tom Lichtenheld for their screwball offering, This Is a Moose. Set in the woods during the shooting of a movie, this zany tale is the story of a star who eludes the typecasting trap and pursues new dreams. The lead, a moose with broad antlers and a defiant stance, has something to declare: He wants to be an astronaut! Clad as a spaceman, he steps before the camera, causing the director to call “cut”—the first of many such eruptions, as the star and his animal pals usurp the production. With gags aimed at grownups, showbiz jokes and a quintessential dictator-director, this is a brilliant send-up of cinema culture. On this set, a bear serves as gaffer, a chimp mans the camera, and a kangaroo wields the clapper. Lichtenheld is the real director here: His antic illustrations in ink, pencil and gouache make Moose a future classic. Readers will applaud this behind-the-scenes movie spoof.

HOW-TO HIGH JINKS
Camp Rex, Molly Idle’s madcap sleepaway adventure, features the blue-eyed tykes from her previous book, Tea Rex. This time around, the proceedings are less civilized, as blonde and beaming Cordelia and her impish younger brother (with teddy bear in tow) rough it in the wilderness with four grinning, agreeable dinosaurs. No regulation troupe, this! Led by the granddaddy of them all, T. Rex, whose kit consists of a red neckerchief and a minuscule scout hat, the gang goes on a march and (after some inexpert attempts at pitching tents) sets up camp. When it comes time to gather round the fire, T. Rex tears a tree from the ground, attaches marshmallows to the roots and gets to roasting! Idle plays it straight in the text, adopting a serious, how-to-camp tone that stands in hilarious contrast to her genius drawings. This is an irresistible trip readers will want to go on again and again.

 

This article was originally published in the May 2014 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

Featuring creatures with outsize personalities whose slightly subversive behavior is hugely hilarious, the picture books featured below are about defying expectations and bending the rules. Young readers, show the world who you really are!

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Whether it’s from high school or university, graduation is a milestone that’s certainly cause for celebration, but with it can come a new set of concerns—big-time worries about how to make the grade in college or in the real world. Whether your grad needs direction or already possesses a five-year plan, three new books offer plenty of inspiration, encouragement and practical advice.

Your teen may affect an air of world-weary ennui, but don’t let the cool facade fool you. If you have a teen heading to college this fall, he or she is bound to be feeling unsettled by the changes that lie ahead. The transition from home to dorm can be tough for any first-timer (they don’t call ’em freshmen for nothing!). Luckily, Blair Thornburgh’s pithy, practical Stuff Every College Student Should Know anticipates—and provides solutions for—many of the hair-tearing scenarios students face in their first year.

The book is organized into critical categories, including social life, academics and money matters. In addition to tips on how to make dorm-dwelling tolerable, Thornburgh provides succinct instruction in critical skills such as knowing how to brew a good cup of coffee, keep a mini-fridge clean and interpret the oft-confusing codes of a washing machine. She also provides advice on social savvy, with lessons in finessing potentially stressful situations, like dealing with a music-blasting roomie and landing a date with that special someone (or, conversely, calling it quits). From understanding Greek life and developing smart study skills to answering the question that looms over all college students—what should I major in?—Thornburgh covers all the bases in this pocket-​size guide. Mandatory reading for the college bound.

WISDOM FOR THE AGES
Listen up, class! Remember the high school graduation oration that David McCullough Jr. delivered in 2012? The talk that went viral on YouTube? That’s right—the “You Are Not Special” speech that the English teacher gave to Wellesley High School grads. Well, you can get your very own copy of that mind-​expanding address, along with some of the best real-world advice contained between two covers, if you pick up McCullough’s new book, You Are Not Special. In it, he explains all the stuff that teens stress over—how to deal with parents, pick the right college, handle peer pressure, choose a career. It’s great, because McCullough really gets where kids are coming from—he understands them on a level that’s, like, micro.

Seriously, though. When it comes to closing the gap that exists between teens and adults, McCullough proves an expert bridge builder. In his book, he uses his now-famous speech as a jumping-off point, encouraging young people to cultivate intellectual curiosity, compassion and self-reliance. He also demystifies parental behavior—an undertaking for which he’s overqualified as a father of four. Smart but not condescending, knowing but never a know-it-all, McCullough—a longtime high school teacher—issues small admonishments to teens (text less, read more) in a tone that’s exceedingly collegial. “The sweetest joys in life . . . come only with the recognition that you’re not special,” he told the 2012 grads. Those who can, teach.

A SIMPLE PROPOSITION
George Saunders is no speechifier. He’s a writer who makes every word matter, so it’s no surprise that the convocation address he delivered to Syracuse University grads in May 2013 was brief, to the point and oh-so-potent. Saunders, the acclaimed and award-winning author of Tenth of December, can cut to the heart of almost any matter in a few select sentences. His Syracuse speech lasted all of eight minutes but had enormous impact. Part of its appeal lay in the delivery—Saunders’ plainspoken, forthright tone. It was a deceptively simple address that packed a punch, raising resonant questions about contemporary values. When a transcript of the talk was published on the New York Times website, it went viral.

In time for graduation season, Random House has released Congratulations, by the Way: Some Thoughts on Kindness, a gift edition of Saunders’ oration. In it, he owns up to personal “failures of kindness” and proposes that people work on being, well, nicer to one another. Calling for a general recalibration of the moral compass, he suggests that we all try to “increase our ambient levels of kindness” and passes on solid advice to his audience: “Do those things that incline you toward the big questions, and avoid the things that would reduce you and make you trivial.” Sparkling illustrations and a special gift card make this a book that grads will treasure.

 

This article was originally published in the May 2014 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

Whether it’s from high school or university, graduation is a milestone that’s certainly cause for celebration, but with it can come a new set of concerns—big-time worries about how to make the grade in college or in the real world. Whether your grad needs direction or already possesses a five-year plan, three new books offer plenty of inspiration, encouragement and practical advice.

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The challenge of finding an appropriately awesome present for Father’s Day can get more difficult with each passing year. A tie? Too tedious. Cologne? Cliché! This month, skip the tired traditions and surprise Pop with one of these newly released books.

Father's Day
While Mom’s away, Dave Engledow feeds daughter Alice Bee, along with cats Elliott and Katje. Reprinted with permission from Confessions of the World’s Best Father.

If you know an overtaxed rookie dad who could use a good laugh, get him Confessions of the World’s Best Father by photographer Dave Engledow. In this clever send-up of perfect parenting, Engledow—a gifted clowner—casts himself as the quintessential distracted dad whose misguided attempts to care for his toddler daughter, Alice Bee, provide the subject matter for a collection of skillfully composed photos filled with parental no-nos: Engledow bathes Alice Bee in a washing machine, looks on as she swills a beer and allows her to play with some questionable toys—an electric knife, a pizza cutter, the list goes on. Engledow digitally manipulated the pictures, so there was no real threat involved, which explains why he’s able to regard the sight of his daughter in danger with unfailing and comical cluelessness. Each grittily realistic photo is accompanied by hilarious commentary from Engledow, who appears to possess a quality every dad should have: the ability to laugh at himself.

Engledow’s playful approach to domesticity is shared by Jason Good, author of This Is Ridiculous This Is Amazing: Parenthood in 71 Lists. A stand-up comic and father of two, Good has created an amusing itemized guide to family life, with lists inspired by some of the most important facets of fatherhood. The book opens with a chapter called “Preparedness,” which provides 23 options for defense against a “toddler attack,” and proceeds onward to critical topics like “The Seven Stages of a Tantrum.” Good also lists tips on traveling with kids (“Go ahead and be one of those weirdos who brings a pillow on the airplane.”) and gives a rundown of the things hard-pressed parents shouldn’t feel guilty about (“Pretending to be asleep. Pretending to be deaf.”). Freshman fathers will find a kindred spirit in Good, who writes from the heart about the rearing of kids, aka the “tiny people who have no idea that they’re slowly killing us.”

FOR LITERATURE LOVERS
Perhaps the papa you’re shopping for is the tweedy type—a haunter of libraries and lifelong English major. If so, he’ll welcome the receipt of But Enough About You: Essays, the new and long-overdue anthology from Christopher Buckley. Featuring the same sly humor and sophisticated turns of phrase that made Wry Martinis (1997), his previous collection, a bestseller, this wide-ranging book showcases Buckley’s rare ability to infuse obscurities (bug zappers, lobster bibs, alarm clocks) with comic—and near cosmic—significance. Nothing, it seems, is unworthy of a precisely observed memorial from the author, who also tackles matters of greater gravity in this masterful collection. There are literary interludes, including brief evaluations of Moby-Dick and Catch-22; trips abroad, with pieces on Paris, London and Machu Picchu; and political perusals in which Buckley applies his inimitable wit to subjects such as Afghan warlords and the Bush Sr. administration. Of particular interest to bibliophiles: the author’s revealing appreciations of late colleagues Joseph Heller and Christopher Hitchens.

FOR SPORTS FANS
Fathers who follow baseball can clock some extra innings this season with I Don’t Care if We Never Get Back: 30 Games in 30 Days on the Best Worst Baseball Road Trip Ever by Ben Blatt and Eric Brewster. Fresh out of Harvard, Blatt fantasizes about a baseball binge: watching a game at every Big League stadium in America in only 30 days. A math whiz, he creates an algorithm for the trip and lets his computer set the course: a 22,000-mile journey via car. Blatt’s plans aren’t solidified until his buddy Eric Brewster—who hates baseball—signs on for the excursion. With their new book, Blatt, now a staff writer for Slate, and Brewster, co-author of the best-selling The Hunger Pains: A Parody, offer up a funny, compelling narrative about their breakneck journey and the experience of loving sports to distraction. From New York’s Yankee Stadium to Seattle’s Safeco Field, they take turns at the wheel, sleep in parking lots and survive on “slimed and sugared ballpark food.” It’s the trip of a lifetime—and every sports fan’s secret dream.

For dads who prefer the Beautiful Game to America’s Favorite Pastime, there’s Eight World Cups: My Journey through the Beauty and Dark Side of Soccer by journalist George Vecsey. One of soccer’s earliest advocates in this country, Vecsey writes with expertise and flair about the otherworldly plays, volatile personalities and sticky politics that make the game so fascinating. As a columnist for The New York Times in the 1980s, he had to persuade his editors to let him cover a sport that was still obscure in the States. They sent him to Spain for the 1982 World Cup, setting the course for decades of action-packed reportage. Among the notable Cups Vecsey covers: Italy, 1990, in which the United States participated after a four-decade hiatus and “difficult genius” Diego Maradona loomed large; and Germany, 2006, the year Wayne Rooney and Renaldo (he of the “tinted tufts and supercilious smirk”) famously butted heads. Vecsey’s delight in soccer culture is palpable, and he makes his audience—even the reader who isn’t smitten with the sport—care, too.

FOR FOODIES
Whether he entertains culinary aspirations or simply likes to engage in experimental eating, the dad on your gift list is sure to savor The World’s Best Spicy Food: Where to Find It & How to Make It. This globe-trotting volume touches down in some of the world’s most flavorful locales, including Thailand, India and Morocco, to get the inside scoop on the best—and zestiest—local cuisines. There are dishes for every taste and temperature level, from sizzling exoticisms such as Singapore’s Devil’s Curry to familiar favorites like Five-Alarm Texas Chili. Designed to appeal to the reader’s sense of adventure as well as his appetite, the book brims with decadent photos, heady recipes, and tasty tips from today’s top food writers. Perfect for fire-eating fathers, whether they like a little or a lot of hot.  

 

This article was originally published in the June 2014 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

ALSO IN BOOKPAGE: Read a Q&A with Dave Engledow for Confessions of the World's Best Father.

The challenge of finding an appropriately awesome present for Father’s Day can get more difficult with each passing year. A tie? Too tedious. Cologne? Cliché! This month, skip the tired traditions and surprise Pop with one of these newly released books.

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Putting a playful spin on school, these picture books depict life in the classroom as a grand adventure, filled with good friends, fun activities and teachers that are wise beyond words.

Fresh recruits feeling less than intrepid about maneuvering the school days that lie ahead will be heartened by Planet Kindergarten by Sue Ganz-Schmitt and Shane Prigmore. The first day of class takes on the dimensions of a cosmic mission in this imaginative tale, as a courageous young boy leaves behind the comforts of home to explore an unknown zone: kindergarten! In class, he acclimates to an atmosphere that’s undeniably intergalactic, with a mission-control intercom and far-out friends, including a pair of pink sister-twins with long white hair, and a tall, thin figure whose bulging head is hidden inside a purple hoodie. Crisply rendered and a bit retro, Prigmore’s brilliant digital illustrations make this space-age expedition extra special.

A TEACHER TRANSFORMED
A mischievous pupil butts heads with a stern instructor in My Teacher Is a Monster! (No, I Am Not.) by acclaimed author and illustrator Peter Brown. Bobby, a boy with a light-socket shock of hair and a penchant for paper airplanes, has a rocky relationship with his teacher, Ms. Kirby. In class she addresses him shrilly as “Robert” and—after an unfortunate airplane incident—deprives him of recess. Small wonder Bobby views her as a monster! Ms. Kirby is indeed a scary sight—a creature-teacher with green skin and fangs. But when Bobby runs into her in the park, the encounter (which involves ducks, a flying hat and—yes—a paper airplane) is surprisingly pleasant. As he gets to know the real Ms. Kirby, her monster facade fades. Brown’s nifty India ink, watercolor and gouache illustrations reward careful scrutiny. This one’s destined to become a school-season staple.

A BIG IMPRESSION
A master of many genres, Neil Gaiman tackles school anxiety in Chu’s First Day of School, the delightful follow-up to his bestseller Chu’s Day. This time, the pint-sized panda is fretting over his first-ever school experience. When the big morning arrives, he’s greeted by a kind teacher (a bespectacled bear) and a menagerie of animal-students, who introduce themselves and explain what they love to do: Robin likes to fly, while Pablo, the monkey, gets a kick out of climbing. Uneasy Chu sits in silence until a cloud of chalk dust forces him to share his own special ability. We won’t reveal what happens next, but suffice it to say, Chu blows his classmates away! This panda has plenty of personality thanks to artist Adam Rex, whose rollicking illustrations, executed in oil and mixed media, have depth, dimension and detail. Immanently adorable, Chu is the perfect pal for readers suffering from first-day phobia.

 

This article was originally published in the August 2014 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

Putting a playful spin on school, these picture books depict life in the classroom as a grand adventure, filled with good friends, fun activities and teachers that are wise beyond words.
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True stories are often the most inspiring. These four exciting picture book biographies focus on real-life teachers, leaders and innovators and their remarkable roads to success. Their stories are sure to leave permanent, positive impressions on young readers. Don’t give up on that dream!

In Firebird, the soaring debut picture book by American Ballet Theater star Misty Copeland, a young black girl who wants to dance professionally struggles with feelings of uncertainty. Illustrator Christopher Myers’ whimsical torn paper and paint collages provide a dreamy backdrop as the girl receives encouragement from Copeland herself, who takes center stage to offer advice and to explain the challenges she faced as a young ballerina. Reflecting on the demands of her vocation, Copeland passes on invaluable words of wisdom in brief, poetic lines. “Even birds must learn to fly,” she reminds the young girl. Dominated by flaming hues of orange, red and blue, Myers’ extraordinary artwork captures the mystique of the Firebird ballet and Copeland’s indomitable spirit. This is a tale that will inspire all up-and-comers.

DESIGNING A DREAM
Kathryn Gibbs Davis and Gilbert Ford’s magical Mr. Ferris and His Wheel is a classic beat-the-odds bio set at the end of the 19th century. Invention and innovation are in the air as Chicago prepares to host the 1893 World’s Fair. Hoping to outdo the razzle-dazzle of the previous Paris-based fair, where crowds were wowed by the Eiffel Tower, event officials issue a challenge to American engineers: Design a structure that will top the City of Light’s iconic edifice. Flooded with submissions—all of them underwhelming—the judges find themselves running out of time. Enter George Washington Gale Ferris Jr., whose proposal for a mighty steel wheel (circumference: 834 feet!) earns their skeptical go-ahead. Davis provides an accessible account of how Ferris brought his daring project to completion despite doubters, time constraints and a lack of funding. Ford’s atmospheric illustrations, rendered in purples and greens, capture the sense of spectacle surrounding Ferris’ beloved invention. This is an enchanting ride from start to finish.

CREATION OF A CLASSIC
With its spirit of old-fashioned inquiry and cabinet-of-curiosities charm, Jen Bryant’s The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus is a delightful tribute to a man of genius who changed the way the world looked at language. Born in London in 1779, Peter Mark Roget was an avid reader with a proclivity for making lists—of Latin words, of weather data, of facts about the natural world. He pursued a medical career in London, indulging his preoccupation with classification and his love of words along the way. Roget’s habits culminated in the 1852 publication of his now-ubiquitous Thesaurus, a reference volume listing words and their synonyms that sold briskly at the time and has never gone out of print. Featuring lists copied from Roget’s own notebooks, antique papers, type blocks and other ephemera, Melissa Sweet’s breathtaking mixed-media illustrations reflect the great man’s intellect—roving yet selective, inclusive but discerning. Young readers will love poring over this book of wonders.

LABOR OF LOVE
History comes alive in Suzanne Slade and Nicole Tadgell’s With Books and Bricks: How Booker T. Washington Built a School, an engaging overview of the life of the legendary educator. Washington’s dreams begin early, during his boyhood as a slave. A glimpse of sentences on a chalkboard in the white kids’ classroom sparks his desire to learn. Washington pursues his goal as slavery ends, teaching himself to read and graduating from an institution in Virginia. From there, his dreams get bigger, as he sets out to build a first-class school for blacks from scratch—literally—out of Alabama clay. With the help of students and supporters, he makes his vision a reality, establishing the world-renowned Tuskegee Institute. Tadgell’s softly realistic pencil and watercolor illustrations add special appeal to this tale of a tireless leader whose legacy can still be felt today.

Illustration from The Right Word, © 2014 by Melissa Sweet. Reprinted with permission of Eerdmans.

This article was originally published in the September 2014 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

True stories are often the most inspiring. These four exciting picture book biographies focus on real-life teachers, leaders and innovators and their remarkable roads to success. Their stories are sure to leave permanent, positive impressions on young readers. Don’t give up on that dream!
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It’s trick-or-treat time again, but we’ve got something better than candy—a roundup of the season’s creepiest new books! Readers, beware: Nothing says “boo” like the spooky titles below.

TOO MANY TREATS
A madcap Halloween adventure featuring two supernatural siblings, The Sweetest Witch Around by Alison McGhee and Harry Bliss is the irresistible follow-up to the duo’s best-selling book, A Very Brave Witch. It’s Halloween, and young Witchling listens dutifully as big sis urges her not to be afraid of humans in spite of their odd ways, like the strange tradition of trick-or-treating. “Candy is gross,” says big sis. Witchling samples some, thinks otherwise, and hops on her broom in hopes of scoring more. She falls in with a group of costumed kids and collects a brimming hatful. Big sis tracks her movements and soon retrieves her, but the trip home by broom proves precarious. Witchling’s haul of treats is too heavy! Forced to abandon the candy or crash, they toss it overboard. Back home, big sis sees her sibling in a new light, admiring her pluck and sense of daring. Bliss’ trademark ink-and-watercolor illustrations are filled with not-to-be overlooked details, like Witchling’s EZ-Bake Cauldron and Graveyard Barbie. This is a sweet treat from start to finish.

A TERRIFYING TRANSFORMATION
Edgar Dreadbury, the protagonist of Keith Graves’ ingenious book, The Monsterator, is a bit of a creep. A pampered lad who’s lord of the Dreadbury manse—an unwelcoming gray pile that has all the makings of a haunted house—he has a seen-it-all attitude toward Halloween and its requisite dress-up ritual. “I wish I could be something screamingly scary,” he says. On a quest for fresh ways to be frightening, he happens upon a store with a strange machine and, following the instructions on its exterior, inserts a coin. Inside the contraption, Edgar morphs from boy to monster, a transformation that’s complete—he sports horns, fangs and a tail—and, as Edgar soon learns, permanent. Appropriately enough, every day is now Halloween for the Dreadbury boy, who’s pleased indeed with his monster makeover and takes singular delight in terrorizing trick-or-treaters. Graves’ brilliant acrylic-paint illustrations have a classic yet creepy quality, and there’s a scary surprise at the end for readers, who can make their own monsters with pages that flip. Frightening fun!

PUMPKIN POWER
A clever coming-of-age story and sweet celebration of the season, Little Boo, by Stephen Wunderli, is the tale of a not very scary, really rather adorable pumpkin seed who can’t wait to grow up. Little Boo was born ready to unleash his inner Jack-o’-lantern. As a young seed anxious to reach his full, frightening potential, he tries—and inevitably fails—to spook his garden companions. “Boo!” he says, addressing a bug, who doesn’t blink an eye. “Boo!” he exclaims to a snowflake, who smiles in response. And so it goes, though the four seasons, until sufficient time has passed, and Boo at last achieves pumpkin status. As a full-fledged Jack-o’-lantern placed in a prime spot on the porch, he proudly sends his ghoulish glow out into the world. Tim Zeltner’s swirling acrylic and glaze illustrations, executed on plywood, capture the spirit of the most mischievous night of the year. Boo is the perfect companion for little tricksters, but Halloween lovers of all ages will fall for this festive story.

It’s trick-or-treat time again, but we’ve got something better than candy—a roundup of the season’s creepiest new books! Readers, beware: Nothing says “boo” like the spooky titles below.

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Snow holds a special sway over the imagination. Daredevil sledding sessions, snowball brawls, warm cups of cocoa—snow days are coming soon, so now's the time to get ready!

NONSTOP SNOW
Caldecott Honor winner John Rocco shares an epic incident from his childhood in Blizzard, an account of the 1978 storm that dropped 40 inches of snow on the Northeast. While the young narrator is initially thrilled by the weather (no school!), he finds that snow, in excess, does not necessarily equal fun. The white stuff won’t support the weight of sledders, and walking through it is like wading. With stressed parents, a rapidly diminishing stock of food and no sign of snowplows, the narrator, inspired by the Artic explorers of old, sets off on an expedition to collect supplies—a major mission that proves a success. From this boyhood victory, Rocco has created an unforgettable book. Through his intriguing pencil, watercolor and digitally painted illustrations, he cleverly communicates the scale of the blizzard (a stop sign disappears into a drift), and his characters’ warm, beaming faces reflect the celebratory spirit that snow always seems to inspire.

WINTRY WORDPLAY
In Winter Bees & Other Poems of the Cold, Joyce Sidman and Rick Allen take a fascinating look at how animals endure the shivery, dark weeks of winter. Through rollicking rhymes and breezy free verse, Sidman examines the cold-weather habits of wolves, moose, snakes, beavers, tundra swans and more. Her lines are full of fresh imagery (bees have “eyelash legs” and “tinsel wings”), and the collection as a whole unlocks the secrets of nature in ways young readers will appreciate. (Who knew that snakes hibernate in the same place every winter?) Sidebars offer intriguing survival stories and fun facts about each creature, while Allen’s digitally layered linoleum-block prints provide detailed studies of the season. A collection that’s as crisp as the first snowfall, Winter Bees is the perfect way to pass a chilly afternoon.

SNOWY ADVENTURE
In her magical new book, Outside, Deirdre Gill celebrates the mind-expanding nature of snow and the ways it can lend new dimension to the everyday world. A restless boy watches through a window as white flakes pile up outside. After exhausting all of his indoor options (like pestering his brother), he leaves the house and heads into the woods, where the majestic, snow-coated trees provide a change of perspective. Left to his own devices, he rolls up a frosty white ball that transforms into—among other thrilling things—a giant snowman. When a winged dragon enters the mix, the boy enjoys a ride through the sky. Gill’s expert oil-on-paper illustrations create a telling contrast between the house’s stuffy interior and the open-ended nature of the great outdoors. Her lovely book captures the quiet mystery of the season.

 

This article was originally published in the November 2014 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

Snow holds a special sway over the imagination. Daredevil sledding sessions, snowball brawls, warm cups of cocoa—snow days are coming soon, so now's the time to get ready!
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If you’re shopping for a book-obsessed guy or gal who geeks out over all things literary, then you’ve turned to the right page. The holiday selections featured below offer the sort of author anecdotes, book-related trivia and top-notch storytelling that bibliophiles are wild about. 

LIFE ON THE PRAIRIE
Countless young readers have warmed to the novel form thanks to Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books. Images from Ingalls-family lore—silent Indians, swarming locusts, interminable wagon journeys with Jack the bulldog trotting behind—are now part of America’s collective literary consciousness. Followers of Wilder’s prairie adventures have something new to look forward to with the release of Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography. Wilder wrote this factual account of her life in 1929-30, and when publisher after publisher passed on it, she repurposed it for the Little House books, using it as the foundation for her fiction. The newly released manuscript displays the forthright style and easy grace associated with the Wilder name and delivers an unsentimental look at the reality behind her novelized life. In a compelling introduction to the book, editor Pamela Smith Hill examines the evolution of the manuscript and offers insights into Wilder’s development as a writer. Maps, photos and other memorabilia make this a must-have for the beloved author’s many fans.
RELATED CONTENT: Read a Q&A with Pamela Smith Hill on Pioneer Girl

WRITERS ON THE ROAD
The armchair escapist on your gift list will love An Innocent Abroad: Life-Changing Trips from 35 Great Writers. A wide-ranging anthology that pays tribute to the transformative power of travel, the volume features contributions from an impressive lineup of literary celebs. Far from being savvy explorers, the authors in this globe-trotting collection confess their incompetence when it comes to crossing borders and cracking maps. Ann Patchett’s Paris sojourn contains a quintessential coming-of-age escapade: As a teenager made giddy by the City of Light, she toys with the idea of getting a cow (yes, cow) tattoo. Mary Karr’s Belize eco-tour results in personal growth, as she sheds her civilized self and becomes one with the jungle. Alas for Richard Ford—his hair-raising run-in with kief sellers on a remote road in Morocco demonstrates that danger is all too often the traveler’s companion. Yes, vicarious voyages are sometimes the best kind, and this travel-writing treasury offers an instant—and expedient—adventure fix.

AUSTEN IS AWESOME
Fans of Emma and Persuasion may OD on the eye candy contained in Margaret C. Sullivan’s Jane Austen Cover to Cover: 200 Years of Classic Covers. A fascinating survey of the visual treatments Austen’s work has received over the centuries, this charming anthology opens with marble-boarded first editions of Sense and Sensibility from London publisher Thomas Egerton and ends with a roundup of foreign translations that range from old-fashioned to funky (a 1970 Spanish edition of Pride and Prejudice has a disembodied eye on its jacket). Sullivan, author of The Jane Austen Handbook, tracks how the presentations of the novels changed along with the publishing industry to reflect graphic design trends and technological advances. Austen’s many disciples will swoon over traditional covers from Penguin, Signet and the Modern Library but may cast a skeptical eye at graphic-novel and zombie editions of Austen’s work. It seems every company under the sun has done Austen, and this irresistible album provides an intriguing overview of their efforts.

THE MAN FROM HANNIBAL
Imagine it: Mark Twain on Twitter. With his carefully cultivated persona and gift for succinct verbal expression—it seems his every utterance was a perfect epigram—the author’s following would’ve been off the charts. Viewing the humorist through just such a contemporary lens, Mark Twain’s America: A Celebration in Words and Images proves that his voice and his work are as resonant today as they were in the 1800s. Harry L. Katz, a former Library of Congress curator, teamed with that institution to produce the book, which features a treasure trove of archival materials, including maps, photos, cartoons and correspondence that depict the rough-and-tumble America of Twain’s era. Documenting the many manifestations of Twain—gold prospector, riverboat pilot, newspaperman, novelist—this lavish volume provides a fascinating portrait of a multifaceted figure who was ahead of his time and whose influence, today, is everywhere. With a foreword by Lewis H. Lapham, former editor of Harper’s Magazine, this is a stunning appreciation of a true American original.

20 QUESTIONS
The arrival of the popular “By the Book” column in The New York Times Book Review is the peak of the week for many literature lovers. A writer-in-the-spotlight feature overseen by editor Pamela Paul, “By the Book” made its Review debut in 2012 (the first subject: David Sedaris). A new collection of Paul’s insightful interviews, By the Book: Writers on Literature and the Literary Life from The New York Times Book Review, contains Q&As with 65 writers, including Donna Tartt, Junot Díaz, Hilary Mantel, Michael Chabon and Neil Gaiman. In their candid conversations with Paul, the great writers come clean about their reading tastes, work habits and inspirations, the books that moved them and the ones that left them cold. Jillian Tamaki’s pencil portraits of the authors are a plus. (Test your writer-recognition skills using the grid of famous faces that graces the cover.) With a foreword by Scott Turow, this is a book that will give bibliophiles a buzz.

 

This article was originally published in the December 2014 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

If you’re shopping for a book-obsessed guy or gal who geeks out over all things literary, then you’ve turned to the right page. The holiday selections featured below offer the sort of author anecdotes, book-related trivia and top-notch storytelling that bibliophiles are wild about.
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Christmas really is the most wonderful time of the year—especially for book lovers! We’ve selected a stack of seasonal goodies that the little angels and elves on your gift list will love.

GETTING INTO THE SPIRIT
Capturing the only-in-December sense of excitement that accompanies the holidays, Tom Brenner’s And Then Comes Christmas follows a jolly little family as they prepare for the big day. Out in the country, surrounded by snow-covered fields, everybody gets in on Christmas activities: Sis hangs paper snowflakes; Dad’s on light duty; little brother offers encouragement; and Mom accepts mysterious packages from the mailman. This prelude to Christmas is an especially festive affair thanks to Jana Christy’s textured digital illustrations. In her hands, the rituals of December—baking cookies, trimming the tree, sitting on Santa’s lap—have a special candlelit magic. Brenner’s poetic prose distills the essence of the season, including the special solemnity of Christmas Eve, when “the whole world seems to be waiting.”

POEMS FROM SANTA
Who knew Santa was an aspiring writer? In Bob Raczka’s twinkling new book, Santa Clauses: Short Poems from the North Pole, the King of Christmas crafts bite-sized poems just right for little readers. Starting on December 1 and ending on Christmas, the merry old elf himself pens a haiku a day, offering insights into his cozy home life with Mrs. Claus and the holiday preparations at the Pole. On Christmas Eve, Santa writes, “Which is packed tighter, / the sack full of toys or the / red suit full of me?” Through illustrations that are a wonder to study—from Santa’s palatial cabin, with its ornate onion domes, to the blue, lunar landscape of the frozen North—artist Chuck Groenink provides a visionary take on the kingdom of Claus. Raczka’s poems, with their arresting imagery and appealing simplicity, make this an ornament for any Christmas book collection.

A GUIDING LIGHT
Finding the perfect Christmas gift is an issue of unusual import for the adorable angel-heroine of Alison McGhee’s Star Bright. Considering the recipient—a very special baby who’s due in December—it’s no surprise she’s nervous. The angel considers a few gift options—music, wind, rain—but none seems right. When she spies travelers on Earth who are lost in the dark of night as they journey to view the newborn, she sets off to guide them with her own special light—a bright Christmas gift, indeed. Peter H. Rey-nolds’ angels are a spunky bunch who inhabit a celestial realm filled with ladders and catwalks. His swirling watercolor, pen-and-ink drawings keep the proceedings lighthearted. Adding a new angle to the Nativity story, this thoughtful tale serves as a poignant reminder of what Christmas is about: the spirit of giving.

SWEDISH CHRISTMAS
A delightful departure from the Christmas story norm, Ulf Stark’s The Yule Tomte and the Little Rabbits is a rollicking holiday adventure that features Sweden’s answer to Santa Claus. Grump is a Yule tomte, or holiday gnome—a miniature St. Nick who delivers Yuletide gifts. Unfortunately, the loss of his favorite red hat and much-needed mittens has turned him into a Christmas crank. Deciding to boycott the big holiday, he holes up in his cottage, but he’s not getting off so easily. Neighboring rabbits Binny and Barty are determined to celebrate the season the traditional way—with tomte in tow. Eva Eriksson’s delicate renderings of Grump and the bunnies are a delight. Told in 25 chapters—one for each day of the Advent calendar—this festive tale is certain to become a Christmas classic.

NIGHT OF WONDERS
For a magical introduction to the miracle of Christmas, it’s hard to top Lee Bennett Hopkins’ Manger. In this luminous new poetry collection, animals of every stripe possess the power of speech on Christmas Eve, and each pays tribute to the baby Jesus in verse. Hopkins, an award-winning poet, selected the 15 accessible pieces in this special volume, which includes work by X.J. Kennedy and Jane Yolen. Helen Cann’s delightful watercolor, collage and mixed-media illustrations are teeming with detail and color, the perfect match for poems that have a plainspoken narrative quality. This is an enchanting look at the holiest of nights.

SEASON OF PEACE
A century has passed since World War I. In Shooting at the Stars: The Christmas Truce of 1914, John Hendrix offers a moving account of the holiday ceasefire achieved by soldiers fighting at the French-Belgian border. Relating events from the front line in a letter to his mother, a young British soldier tells of the remarkable moment on Christmas Day when French, English and German men laid down their weapons and clasped hands, sharing biscuits and good wishes. Hendrix’s expert drawings in graphite, acrylic and gouache bring the battlefield to life. Among the mud and concertina wire, hope takes the shape of tiny Christmas trees in the trenches. Peace, as this solemnly beautiful story proves, is the greatest gift of all. 

 

This article was originally published in the December 2014 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

Christmas really is the most wonderful time of the year—especially for book lovers! We’ve selected a stack of seasonal goodies that the little angels and elves on your gift list will love.
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Providing a moment of repose in our accelerated era, poetry is an enduring art. Just in time to celebrate National Poetry Month, we’re exploring three new collections that address the joys and challenges of contemporary existence with compassion, wit and linguistic ingenuity.

In The Beauty, her eighth book of poetry, Jane Hirshfield continues to do what she does best: sift and refine reality—the experience of the self in its surroundings—into poems that contain startling moments of recognition for the reader. Throughout this unforgettable collection, Hirshfield excavates the everyday and finds romance in the routine of being human.

In poems that are tidy and efficient, with brief lines that are notable for their lack of extravagance, Hirshfield celebrates the status quo—“the steady effort of the world to stay the world”—and imbues the homely, plain or pedestrian with wonderful significance. The mundane, everyday items that fall in her way present fresh opportunities for poetic moments. In “A Common Cold,” she makes a common ailment seem cosmopolitan: “A common cold, we say— / common, though it has encircled the globe / seven times now handed traveler to traveler . . . common, though it is infinite and surely immortal . . . ” Now, at the age of 60, Hirshfield also reflects upon her own meandering timeline in a series of equally rewarding and astounding “My” poems. Poetry is embedded in the world, and—fortunately for the reader—her ability to recognize it seems inexhaustible.

LATE-LIFE MUSINGS
A new batch of poems from Pulitzer Prize winner and former Poet Laureate Charles Simic is always a cause for celebration. The Lunatic marks a welcome return from a writer who’s singularly attuned to the absurdity that attends the human condition. The narrator is frequently a tragicomic figure who grapples with a sense of identity and the unrelenting passage of time. Many of the poems find him caught in the grip of history, as the past invades the present, and the intervening years constrict into a single utterance or remembered vision: “The name of a girl I once loved / Flew off the tip of my tongue / In the street today, / Like a pet fly / Kept in a matchbox by a madman,” Simic writes in “The Escapee.” “Oh, Memory” fixes upon a central, haunting image drawn forth from the speaker’s boyhood: “a small child’s black suit / Last seen with its pants / Dangling from a high beam / In your grandmother’s attic.”

Short and incisive, biting in their brevity, the poems are full of black humor and diluted joy. Simic writes with a winning humility: “I’m the uncrowned king of the insomniacs / Who still fights his ghosts with a sword, / A student of ceilings and closed doors,” he says in “About Myself.” Simic’s mining of the human psyche and portrayals of the creaturely discomforts that come with being alive in the world make this a sympathetic and penetrating collection.

AN AGE OF UNCERTAINTY
A visionary book, beautiful and bleak, that speaks to the ills of the current era, The Last Two Seconds is the seventh collection from acclaimed poet and 2007 National Book Critics Circle Award winner Mary Jo Bang. In this tense, unsettling and apocalyptic collection, Bang focuses on the nature of time as it relates to contemporary experience—on what it’s like to live in a world that’s both speeding up and winding down.

Bang is an expert at depicting the machinations of the modern mind, and in this collection, she portrays that interior space as a place of terror and isolation. A character in an extended three-part poem called “Let’s Say Yes” is trapped inside her own thoughts, “the edge of her mind turning meaning for hours / at a time. Hours and days. A sound like a sickle. / Her head a bunch of heather.” Many of the poems address the difficulties of processing the here and now, of sorting out reality. The overall atmosphere is unsettling: One narrator hears “the cricket voice of suffering.” A loaf of bread is like “a dead armadillo.” Disturbing imagery abounds as, again and again, Bang turns the mirror toward the reader. Having arrived at the precipice, where humankind has achieved and yet destroyed so much in this world, we struggle to navigate the most critical of moments. This is a collection that demonstrates Bang’s rare gift as a writer: her uncommon capacity to shake and awaken us.

 

This article was originally published in the April 2015 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

Providing a moment of repose in our accelerated era, poetry is an enduring art. Just in time to celebrate National Poetry Month, we’re exploring three new collections that address the joys and challenges of contemporary existence with compassion, wit and linguistic ingenuity.
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2015 BookPage Summer Reads

Nothing says summer like a trip to the beach. Getting there is a breeze thanks to the trio of picture books featured below. Each of these seaside stories offers easy escape—just crack the covers and dive right in. No travel necessary!

AN UNEXPECTED VACATION GUEST
Duck’s Vacation by Gilad Soffer features a curmudgeonly main character in need of some R&R. Duck hits the sand, ready to relax (beach chair: check; tropical bev: check), but soon discovers he’s in the presence of an unwanted guest—the reader! Feathers ruffled, Duck grumpily instructs his audience to quit flipping pages and leave him in peace.

But Duck’s out of luck. The reader can’t resist the impulse to continue the tale, and as the story progresses, so do the disruptions to Duck’s day. There are boys playing ball, a gamboling dog and—uh-oh—accumulating clouds. “It can’t possibly get worse,” says Duck. But more surprises are in store, making this a holiday he won’t forget. Soffer’s pencil drawings are at turns vivid and bright, soft and impressionistic. This bird may have a prickly personality, but readers will love him anyway. 

DIP WITH DINOS
Cordelia, her little brother and their prehistoric pals return in Molly Idle’s delightful Sea Rex. This time around, the hijinks are set beachside, where Cordelia sports a classy hat and chic shades and her brother is in full-on pirate gear. Their dino buddies serve as more than sufficient lifeguards—hovering, attentive and HUGE. 

As usual, T. Rex manages to steal every scene. After a nap beneath an inadequate umbrella (with little brother snoozing on his belly), he creates supersize waves in the ocean. Idle’s dinosaurs—lumbering, bumbling and full of good intentions—are indisputably adorable. Her colored-pencil drawings feature clean, pure colors and display an ingenious use of proportion and scale. T. Rex roars on!

VERY BLUE WHALE
Cale Atkinson’s To the Sea is an appealing tale of friendship between two unlikely chums. Tim feels invisible—he’s a solitary lad in a dreary, rain-filled world. One day, he comes across Sam, an enormous whale who’s trapped on land, out of his element and all alone. Tim befriends the blue behemoth and vows (pinkie-swears!) to get him back to the ocean. Tim hatches various plans to help Sam until finally finding an idea that works. With persistence and courage, boy and whale make it to the beach, where life is decidedly brighter. 

Atkinson’s inventive illustrations include cool typefaces and collage-like spreads that feature Tim in a citrus-orange rain slicker. This ultimately sunny story about loyalty and the importance of keeping promises is (almost) as good as a day at the beach.

 

This article was originally published in the July 2015 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

Nothing says summer like a trip to the beach. Getting there is a breeze thanks to the trio of picture books featured below. Each of these seaside stories offers easy escape—just crack the covers and dive right in. No travel necessary!

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