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Pura Belpré Honor author Laekan Zea Kemp (Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet) offers a sweet ode to the special bond between grandmother and grandchild in A Crown for Corina, her first picture book.

Corina is celebrating her birthday in Abuela’s garden, where her grandmother helps her select meaningful blooms to incorporate into her flower corona, her very own crown. Abuela’s garden is the perfect place for a party, so full of flowers that Corina thinks it looks like “la tierra is throwing una fiesta.” 

At Abuela’s urging, Corina begins by choosing flowers that represent her family. There’s a happy sunflower for Mamá, who loves the color yellow, a bluebonnet that reminds Corina of her pet rabbit’s fluffy tail, morning glories that pay tribute to Abuelo’s trumpet and more. Next, Abuela asks Corina to add flowers that symbolize who she wants to grow up to become, and Corina picks sunny esperanzas for hope, daisies for strength and mistflowers for their sweet scent that draws butterflies. As Corina explores Abuela’s garden, she discovers a language she never knew before, “one spoken not in words but in the prick of a cactus needle, in the bright orange plums of a bird of paradise, and in the sweet scent of a chocolate cosmos.”

Finally, Abuela places the corona on Corina’s head and reminds her granddaughter that to wear a flower crown is to “become its roots, reaching back through time to hold on to the things that matter.” Corina realizes that she will carry the memory of this day spent with her Abuela forever.

Kemp incorporates Spanish words and phrases throughout the text as she welcomes readers into Corina’s family’s stories. Kemp’s use of sensory imagery is especially well done, enabling the reader to experience not only the way Abuela’s garden looks but also how it smells, sounds and feels. Kemp’s lyrical prose blends seamlessly with Elise Chavarri’s cheerful, detailed watercolor artwork to create a lively Eden bursting with hummingbirds, honey bees, blossoms and butterflies. Her spreads are filled with vivid greens and warm, saturated magentas and oranges that reflect Corina’s own feelings of lightness and joy.  

Just like Abuela’s garden grows with care, Corina feels supported and loved by her family as she grows another year older. A Crown for Corina is a moving portrayal of the connections between family members, generations, the earth, the past and a very bright future. 

To celebrate Corina’s birthday, her abuela helps her choose meaningful blooms to incorporate into a special flower crown in this moving and vividly illustrated picture book.
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When you gaze at the quilted cover of A Flag for Juneteenth, you will want to reach out and touch it. The artwork depicts a girl wearing a fuchsia dress and kerchief standing proudly in front of a flag, the bright colors of her outfit vibrant against the flag’s soft yellows and greens. The girl’s brown face has no features—nor do the faces of any of the book’s characters—because author-illustrator Kim Taylor wants readers to be able to imagine themselves in this story. 

Then you open A Flag for Juneteenth and discover that Taylor quilted all of the illustrations in her debut picture book, and you realize that her textile art perfectly complements her evocative prose, creating an excellent portrayal of Huldah, a Black girl living with her enslaved family on a Texas plantation in 1865.

As the book opens, it’s the morning of Huldah’s 10th birthday. Taylor’s embroidering transforms mottled brown fabrics into textured tea cakes, a special treat baked by Huldah’s mother for her daughter’s birthday. “The scent of nutmeg and vanilla floated through our cabin,” Taylor writes, and her stitched text forms a winding ribbon of words that waft up from the plate as Huldah breathes in the sweet smell. 

Soon, Huldah hears the “loud clip-clippity-clop of heavy horses’ hooves” as soldiers ride onto the plantation. She witnesses their historic announcement: President Abraham Lincoln has freed all enslaved people! Taylor emphasizes the importance of this declaration by placing a lone soldier onto a white quilted background. She embroiders the proclamation that he reads “in a booming voice,” forming four lines of text that radiate from his figure.

Elation follows, and Huldah hears shouting and singing. Images of celebration feature the outlines of surprised, ecstatic people jumping and raising their hands in the air for joy. Taylor sets their multicolor silhouettes against gentle yellow-orange ombre fabric that’s quilted with sunburst lines, as though the people have been caught up in rays of light. 

Huldah watches as a group of women begins to sew freedom flags. Children gather branches to use as flagpoles, but Huldah goes one step further. She climbs her favorite tree and captures a sunbeam in a glass jar, preserving this extraordinary moment in time forever.

Juneteenth became a federal holiday in 2021, and A Flag for Juneteenth exquisitely conveys the day’s spirit of jubilation and freedom.

Read our Q&A with ‘A Flag for Juneteenth’ author-illustrator Kim Taylor.

Kim Taylor’s portrayal of a girl witnessing the first Juneteenth, accompanied by exquisite quilted artwork, is filled with a spirit of jubilation and freedom.
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“We are all just hearts / beating in the darkness.” In All the Beating Hearts, poet Julie Fogliano and illustrator Cátia Chien take readers on an impressionistic journey through a single day, capturing the interior and exterior worlds of humans. 

Fogliano’s text captures joy, wonder, tedium and sorrow. “Each day starts with the sun / and hopefully something to eat,” Fogliano writes, acknowledging food scarcity. Most of us spend our days on the move, spending our hours on “work / or play / or work AND PLAY.” Some days are filled with love, and “some days we will curl up / and wish to be / any / other / place.” 

When night arrives, we slip into dreams, and our hearts beat with the message that “we are here / and alive / together but apart / the same, but exactly different.” Fogliano repeats that phrase, “the same, but exactly different” toward the end of the book as well, offering a refreshing antidote to the we’re-not-so-different platitudes of seemingly progressive picture books that, in practice, deny differences such as race, gender and disability. 

Chien meets Fogliano’s evocative words with lush, atmospheric illustrations awash with color. In a wordless spread depicting a night of dreams, children float in an abstract cloud rendered in warm shades of rose and yellow, surrounded by scribbled amorphous creatures. In another spread, a child illustrated in full color and backlit by a bright light stands in a crowd of people all drawn in jagged shades of gray. “Everyone is busy being / everywhere and everything else / and all those beating hearts / are still there, but struggling / to be heard above it all.” 

The connections between those hearts, which beat within us “strong and steady and sure,” is the stuff of life, Fogliano seems to be saying. This tender, compassionate picture book invites readers to ponder this notion with wonder—and all of their hearts.  

This tender, compassionate picture book invites readers to ponder how we’re all connected by “our beating hearts / strong and steady and sure.”
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A powerful picture book about the transatlantic slave trade, Kwame Alexander and Dare Coulter’s An American Story opens with a question: “How do you tell a story that starts in Africa and ends in horror?” It might seem an impossible topic to teach children, and yet, as the book’s title suggests, it’s an essential part of our national origin story.

Alexander and Coulter approach the subject by interspersing historical information with scenes of a group of students and their teacher discussing these events in a modern-day classroom. For instance, after Alexander offers a list of types of work that enslaved people were forced to do “FOR FREE,” such as “planting corn” and “harvesting coffee,” a student responds, “Why weren’t they paid? That’s not fair.” 

Coulter’s artwork, nearly six years in the making, is striking and exceptional. In addition to charcoal sketches (which illustrate the contemporary scenes) and rich, full-color paintings, Coulter created clay sculptures of enslaved people, which he then photographed and incorporated into the book’s illustrations, bringing remarkable dimensionality to the book’s art.

It’s impossible to overstate how impactful Coulter’s illustrations can be. They convey the joy of children playing games around a glowing fire and the peace of lying down to rest among long blades of green grass, but also the terror and sadness of people shackled together in the holds of ships and the suffering of a man with a rope around his neck, “sold like cattle” away from his family. 

In fact, the classroom teacher becomes overwhelmed by the lesson. “It’s just too painful,” she tells her students. “I shouldn’t have to read this to you.” Her interjection serves as a helpful pause for readers, allowing them to consider what they’ve read and process their own reactions to it. It also marks the book’s turning point. “Don’t you tell us to always speak the truth,” a student asks, “even when it’s hard?” The text then highlights people who exemplify “speaking up and speaking out” such as Sojourner Truth and Robert Smalls.

An American Story closes with a glorious spread that merges the art styles of past and present, as a clay-sculpture woman places her hand under the chin of a sketched student. In the text, the teacher’s final question (“How do you tell a story this hard to hear, one that hurts and still loves?”) gets its powerful answer: “by holding history in one hand and clenching hope in the other.” Coulter places all of his sketches on yellow backgrounds, and in this pivotal moment, the backdrop takes on a brilliant, radiant glow.

An American Story will not be an easy book to read, and adults should take care when introducing it to very young children. Nonetheless, its pages are filled with needful truths. Alexander’s sensitive, poetic text and Coulter’s majestic art provide a stellar framework for young Americans to learn about their country’s history.

An American Story provides a stellar framework for young Americans ready to learn about an essential part of our national origin story.
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This home-and-back-again adventure tale belongs to Evergreen, a wide-eyed squirrel who lives deep in Buckthorn Forest. Evergreen has a long list of fears, including but not limited to germs, loud noises, heights, swimming and thunderstorms. When her mother asks her to travel through the forest to take soup to Granny Oak, Evergreen responds, “I can’t do it!” But her mother insists (”I know you are afraid, but I believe you can do it”), so Evergreen puts on her shawl and heads out. 

In an era of picture books that often contain sparse text, Evergreen stands out for its lengthy, detailed prose. Caldecott Medalist Matthew Cordell treats readers to an epic tale in six enumerated parts, filled with lively dialogue and hand-lettered onomatopoeia. “SKREEEE-EEE!” and “GRRROOOAAARRR!” go the forest creatures who frighten Evergreen on her journey. In one remarkably spine-tingling moment, a red-tailed hawk named Ember swoops down toward Evergreen, picks her up “with razor-sharp talons” and soars into the sky. Cordell offers a dramatic, close-up view of the scene as Evergreen and another animal run toward the reader, the hawk just behind them, its majestic wings exceeding the edges of the spread. 

Fortunately, Ember just needs Evergreen’s help to remove some painful thorns after an unlucky encounter with a bramble. “I . . . can do it,” Evergreen whispers, a self-directed pep talk that becomes her refrain throughout the story. With each creature she meets, Evergreen faces one of her fears with courage (and deep breaths and trembling hands), and she prevails every time—even when she meets “the Bear,” whose identity is a gratifying surprise. 

Cordell’s world building is immensely satisfying, and Evergreen is packed with entertaining textual and visual details. Evergreen delivers Mama’s “magic soup” in an empty acorn with a screw-on cap; her tattered shawl is red like another well-known woodland food delivery courier; and earth tone borders that look like tree branches frame many vignettes. Cordell drops a number of hints to a sequel, including a delightful map beneath the dust jacket and another delivery request from Evergreen’s mother toward the story’s conclusion. Readers would be so lucky. 

Caldecott Medalist Matthew Cordell packs entertaining textual and visual details into Evergreen, an epic home-and-back-again adventure about facing your fears.

Two-time Caldecott Honor recipient Marla Frazee brings her considerable talents to a timeless celebration of birth and life in In Every Life, a wonder of a picture book. 

In an introductory note, Frazee shares the long history of her book’s inception. In 1998, she witnessed a call-and-response-style blessing for a new baby. She’s made a number of attempts to illustrate the blessing, but it took her more than 20 years to find the right way to finish the project. The book, dedicated to her first grandchild, is certainly worth the wait.

The book’s format is deceptively simple, with spreads alternating between text and gorgeous, wordless, full-bleed paintings created with a soft palette of pencil and gouache that’s resplendent with golds, blues, pinks and violets. Frazee’s prose lends a lyrical, comforting rhythm to the textual spreads, which contain a single phrase rendered in large type and interrupted by the gutter: “In every birth, / blessed is the wonder”; “In every smile, / blessed is the light.” Beneath each phrase are full-color spot-art depictions of families, with a single shade dominating each spread. In the “birth” spread, for instance, we see a diverse array of parents, grandparents and siblings welcoming newborns, all highlighted in pink tones.

As its title suggests, In Every Life plumbs deeper expressions of the mysteries of human experiences, including sadness, illness, pain and love. Frazee’s art has a classic, almost retro feel, and there is so much here for young readers to observe and discover. She doesn’t shy away from scenes that will be best shared with children by adults in a quiet, one-on-one setting, rather than in a group or storytime setting. Vignettes that accompany a line about sadness and comfort include a crestfallen child next to a soccer ball, a family mourning their pet and a young patient in a hospital bed. Yet there is light humor here, too: In a spread about hope, Frazee portrays two people with a kite checking the sky for a breeze, a child on the potty and a family preparing a turkey for roasting. 

Frazee’s love both for her art and for life itself shines from each page of In Every Life. This gentle, luminous book is a treasure. 

Two-time Caldecott Honor recipient Marla Frazee’s love for both her art and life itself shine from each page of this gentle, luminous treasure of a book.
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Run away to Granny’s house, where the fields are vast and grassy and the pecan tree is old and tall and perfect for climbing. But before we can do that, a girl named Nell must bury a seed in a pot. Before we can find out how high we can climb in that pecan tree, Nell must water a sprout. Before we can discover “a nest filled with eggs” and witness “three chicks hatching free,” Nell must ensure that her potted seedling gets plenty of sunlight. And before we can find treasures (“a long strip of bark / and a shell / and a stone / and a leaf flecked with holes”), Nell must plant her tree in the ground. 

In Nell Plants a Tree, author Anne Wynter draws on many of the techniques that made her debut picture book, Everybody in the Red Brick Building, so successful. She leverages her eye for detail to highlight the loveliest moments of a child’s day spent playing in a field, finding the ideal spot for reading at Granny’s house and baking a delicious pie with the tree’s pecans. Wynter’s prose is spare, lighting like a little blue bird on the moments that matter, and it combines with Daniel Miyares’ recognizable ink and gouache artwork to skillfully elicit the feel of a lazy summer day.

Wynter’s text travels back and forth in time, as do Miyares’ illustrations. We see, for instance, Granny pouring lemonade for her grandchildren as they all gather on her porch, then we turn the page and find a young Nell giving her sprout a drink from a metal watering can. Nell’s and Granny’s dresses are similar shades of yellow, offering a hint that the young girl and the grandmother are the same person. This becomes clear as Nell’s tree grows along with her, her children and then her grandchildren. 

Text and image couldn’t be better paired than they are here. The concept underlying Nell Plants a Tree is a tricky one that would be difficult for any writer and illustrator to pull off, yet Wynter and Miyares succeed handily. Generations of readers will be inspired by this sweet story to plant seeds of their own.

Author Anne Wynter’s prose lights like a little blue bird on moments that matter in this sweet, spare picture book.
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In A Flag for Juneteenth, Kim Taylor tells the story of Huldah, a Black girl who lives with her enslaved family on a plantation in Texas. It’s June 1865, and tomorrow is Huldah’s 10th birthday—but it’s also the day that Huldah will witness the historic reading of the proclamation that President Abraham Lincoln has freed all enslaved people. A self-taught textile artist, Taylor’s illustrations for the book are exquisitely detailed quilts that fill the story with a spirit of joy and freedom.

Tell us about Huldah and what’s happening in her life at the beginning of your book.
Huldah is a mature, curious, insightful little girl. She has the very grown-up responsibility of caring for her baby sister while her parents work on the plantation. We meet Huldah the day before her 10th birthday, which falls on a Sunday. Sundays during this time were a day for rest and reconnecting with family and community. Huldah’s mom baked Huldah’s favorite, tea cakes, for her upcoming birthday, a luxury she may not have had time for during the week.

What did you research to write this book?
I devoured everything I could read about Juneteenth, but that was only the beginning! I was curious about what life was like for enslaved people when they were not working and how they connected with their immediate and extended families. I was very interested in understanding how they built a sense of community despite such oppressive circumstances. 

I Googled, listened to podcasts and read books about that time. I also looked at pictures of enslaved people, which helped me to imagine their personalities and lives. One picture of a little girl that I found on the Library of Congress website seemed to embody the spirit of my Huldah, and I kept her image in mind as I developed the character.

Many of the characters’ names in the story are symbolic. Will you tell us about some of these names and what they represent?
I wanted my main character’s name to be unusual, a name that would be new to my readers. I envisioned this character to be a prophet, one who could bear witness to the announcement of the end of slavery as a legal institution and could also foretell of a future free of bondage. I Googled biblical female prophets and an image of a beautiful Black woman appeared on my screen. Her name was Huldah. As soon as I saw her, I knew that this would be the name of my main character. 

“I remember telling a friend that I felt as though Huldah had become like a daughter to me. I felt a deep connection to her character.”

Eve, the name of Huldah’s baby sister, is also biblical. It is derived from a Hebrew word meaning “to breathe” or “to live.” In my story, Eve is an infant. She will have the opportunity to live her life without the legal burden of enslavement. 

One other character in my story has a name. Mr. Menard is the oldest man on the plantation. He has the last name of Michel B. Menard, the founder of Galveston, Texas, where my story takes place. I thought that it was important to demonstrate that enslaved people were often given the last names of their enslavers to erase any connection to their own family lineage.  

You’ve said that each of your quilts feels as though it is created “through [you], rather than by [you]” and that you feel a “deep connection with [your] ancestors during the creative process.” What was the journey of writing this book and creating its quilted illustrations like for you?
I felt that I was being guided in some way while writing and creating the illustrations for this book. I saved the pictures that I discovered during my research and looked at them often when writing, trying to connect in some way. 

I fell in love with Huldah very early on. Because the people in this book have no faces, I had to figure out how to give Huldah depth and to showcase her personality in other ways. I also needed to make her consistent and recognizable in every illustration. That is no easy task when working with fabric on such a small scale! I remember telling a friend that I felt as though Huldah had become like a daughter to me. I felt a deep connection to her character. 

The illustrations took a little over a year to create. It was an enormous undertaking and very emotional. When I was finished with all of the illustrations, I was amazed that I had actually achieved it! I don’t think that I could have done it if I did not know on some level that my ancestors were watching over me and guiding me throughout this journey.

Tell us about your quilting journey and how you began to make story quilts.
When I was young, I loved to color, paint and lose myself in arts and crafts projects. I liked to make clothes for my dolls using my mother’s scarves. When I was about 8 or 9 years old, I discovered my mother’s Singer sewing machine, and I wanted to learn to use it. My mom didn’t sew but encouraged me to try it out. I taught myself how to work it and began trying to make clothes for my dolls. Throughout my childhood, I used art as a vehicle to relax or to create something that I needed, such as pillows or simple paintings for a new apartment. 

“I love exploring different colors and texture combinations when I am just beginning a new quilt. There are so many different possibilities!”

It wasn’t until I discovered story quilting that I began to use art as a vehicle to process deep emotion. When Barack Obama was elected to be our 44th president, I had feelings that I found difficult to verbally express. I wanted to create something to mark the historic event but felt it important to use an art form that had some connection to my ancestors. I thought about my West African ancestors and how women there are master weavers and textile artists. I thought about enslaved African and African American women and how they used quilting not only to keep their families warm but also to tell stories about family memories and ancestral history. I decided to try my hand at this art form and fell in love immediately. 

How has your artistic process changed or evolved since you began quilting?
At the beginning of my journey, I worried about making mistakes but quickly came to the realization that art quilting is very forgiving. Many things that I saw as mistakes enhanced my pieces and made them more visually interesting. 

I decided early on that I would teach myself something new for each quilt. I researched techniques online and bought many books about art quilting to help me to learn the basics. I have become a better artist over the years because of this decision. I am more mindful now about fabric color and texture and how they work together to set the mood of a piece. It’s all been trial and error though. I did not go to art school, so it’s been a wondrous learning journey!

What is your favorite part of the process of creating a quilt?
I love exploring different colors and texture combinations when I am just beginning a new quilt. There are so many different possibilities! There is no need to commit to anything in that early planning stage because nothing is sewn down yet. I am free to move fabrics around and discover what feels right for that unique piece.

“I felt it was critical to highlight the beauty and resilience of African and African American people during their enslavement, as well as to showcase the importance of strong family and community ties.”

I would love to hear about how you composed these illustrations. How did you choose the fabrics? Do any of them have special significance?
When planning the illustrations, I tried to keep the text in mind and made decisions about what aspects needed to be enhanced. For example, the first page describes tea cakes, a traditional cookie that enslaved people made using simple pantry ingredients. I thought it was important to help readers visualize a tea cake, so I set out to create them using one of the brown fabrics from my stash that had some color variations. Tea cakes were not fancy, but they were delicious and smelled amazing, so I used hand-embroidered lettering to show the movement of the scent wafting through the air. Embroidery was the new thing I taught myself for this project. 

I chose fabrics that I felt would have matched the period. Nothing flashy or too modern. I did want to depict a difference in how my characters were dressed before and after the announcement about freedom. Some of the clothing was inspired by my love of African fabric and styles. 

What is your favorite illustration in the book?
I love them all for one reason or another, but my favorite is the illustration of Huldah high up in her favorite tree, catching a sunbeam. It is such a visually stunning illustration. I love how big the sun is in comparison to Huldah. She bravely faces the sun head-on, taking some of its strength and wisdom back home with her in her little jar. In my imagination, the sun represents life and freedom, and that jar is her heart. I fell in love with nature at a very young age, camping every summer in New York’s Bear Mountain and the Catskills. Nature always felt so big to me, yet I was never overwhelmed by it. Instead, I always felt at home and peaceful, just like Huldah.

What aspect of A Flag for Juneteenth are you most proud of?
I am very proud to tell the story of Juneteenth in a way that I hope will encourage children to want to learn more about this historic event. I felt it was critical to highlight the beauty and resilience of African and African American people during their enslavement, as well as to showcase the importance of strong family and community ties. I am also incredibly proud to have illustrated this book with an art form that was used by my ancestors to tell their own stories.

Read our starred review of Kim Taylor’s ‘A Flag for Juneteenth.’

Photo of Kim Taylor courtesy of Erskine Isaac for Ivisionphoto.

The author-illustrator of A Flag for Juneteenth, a picture book illustrated with quilted artwork, describes feeling guided by her ancestors as she created her extraordinary first book.
Review by

Canadian author Kathy Stinson and illustrator Lauren Soloy’s A Tulip in Winter is a vibrant biography of folk artist Maud Lewis from two creators familiar with the Nova Scotian landscape that Lewis called home. 

Although Lewis had a happy childhood, she was also “teased . . . for how she looked, her crooked walk, and how small she was.” Lewis’ hands grew stiff from a condition her doctors could not explain, revealed in the book’s back matter to be severe rheumatoid arthritis. The condition prevented her from playing the piano, so her mother gave her a paintbrush and launched Lewis’ life in art: “Red on white made its own kind of music,” the girl eagerly discovered. 

A Tulip in Winter touches on the many challenges in Lewis’ life: She struggled to find employment, and after her parents’ deaths, she moved in with her aunt, who discouraged her niece’s art. Eventually, Lewis moved into a small, plain house owned by a fish peddler named Everett and soon filled the house with color, painting floral and other natural motifs on the stairs, walls, tea canisters, dustpans and more. “Everett was strong in body. Maud was strong in spirit. They got along the way certain colours do,” Stinson writes. The book’s final spread acknowledges the fame Lewis achieved after her death: “So small was her house that it is now nestled inside the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia.” 

Stinson emphasizes that the foundation of Lewis’ distinctive art was her ability to notice things, even when she was unable to leave her home. Her admiration and respect for Lewis permeate every page, while Soloy’s thick-lined, brightly colored illustrations capture the essence of Lewis’ joyous art. Full-bleed spreads bring Lewis’ childhood to life with period details such as horse-drawn carriages and historical clothing, and many spreads are overlaid in white-lined drawings of the things Lewis observes in nature, including flowers, birds, trees, ocean waves and more. The book’s seamless blend of text and art provides a superb introduction to the work of a woman who found “beauty in the everyday.” 

This vibrant biography of folk artist Maud Lewis is a superb introduction to the work of a woman who found “beauty in the everyday.”
Review by

This exquisite etiological story, originally published in a wordless format by David Álvarez in Mexico in 2017, blends multiple Mesoamerican tales to tell a story of how the sun came to be. 

“At the start of things, the elders say,” begins award-winning author David Bowles’ text, which was composed for this edition, “the universe was hushed and still.” Teal-gray Rabbit perches atop the moon, which takes the form of a round jug and provides the sky’s only light aside from the minuscule stars. In order to keep the moon “forever a-glow,” Rabbit crosses the world to secure more aguamiel, nectar that “brims in the heart of the first and holy maguey,” an agave plant. 

But clever Opossum wants to taste the aguamiel, so he uses his walking stick to crack open the moon and siphon off some of the nectar. Later, ashamed that the moon has been depleted of the substance that made it glow, Opossum journeys deep into the earth to fill another jug with fire and, in the process, burns the tip of his tail. Afterward, with a “blazing sun” in the sky, Rabbit and Opossum become the “Guardians of Light.” 

Bowles’ spare, evocative text flows like poetry: “Rabbit made her way down the Great Ceiba’s trunk and trekked across the sea-ringed world.” He seamlessly captures the nuances of the traditional tales from which this story draws, which are discussed in a detailed note that closes the book. 

Álvarez’s compositions are sophisticated and uncluttered as he arranges visual elements with elegance and balance. Most of the spreads feature a pitch-black background punctuated by gleaming pinpoint stars. Layered atop are the subdued, earth-toned colors of beautifully crafted, gently stylized figures so remarkably textured that you can almost count the number of hairs on Rabbit’s body. 

Ancient Night is wondrous, sparkling and easily one of the best picture books of 2023. 

This wondrous, sparkling story conveys how Rabbit and Opossum became “Guardians of Light,” providing the moon with its glow and the sun its fire.

Gardening isn’t just for the countryside! This exuberant picture book celebrates the joys of community gardening and sharing food with neighbors and friends in the city.

Red gingham patterned endpapers set the table for City Beet, a reimagining of a Russian folktale commonly known as “The Gigantic Turnip.” The story begins when young Victoria and her neighbor Mrs. Kosta spy a flyer advertising a community potluck. Victoria wants to bring a raw beet and garlic salad to the party—yum! Of course, this duo doesn’t just run out to the store to buy some beets. Instead, they embark on an adventure to grow their own.  

And, oh, what a beet they grow! In fact, Victoria and Mrs. Kosta’s beautiful beet grows so big that when they set out to harvest it on potluck day, it won’t budge from the ground. Fortunately, living in a city means that the two are surrounded by lots of helpers. The delightfully diverse cast, which includes a taxi driver, a street sweeper, a pair of police officers and a recycling-truck driver, all jump into the action. Victoria is declared “too small” to pull along with the growing group of neighbors, so she gets busy grating garlic for the salad as the group of folks trying to pull up the beet grows—but the beet remains firmly planted. Only when Victoria comes up with a novel solution does the beet finally spring free, just in time for everyone to come together and enjoy a summer feast. The recipe for Victoria and Mrs. Kosta’s raw beet and garlic salad rounds out this delectable tale.

Author Tziporah Cohen’s simple text is complemented perfectly by illustrator Udayana Lugo’s bright color palette and lively art. Cohen incorporates vehicular onomatopoeia every time a new helper pulls up to the scene, and the facial expressions Lugo creates for each character imbue Cohen’s story with emotion. It’s especially funny to see each new helper grin optimistically as they join the group, then grimace as they realize that they’ve met their tuberous match.

The City Beet is a wonderful reminder that big problems are more fun to tackle—and more likely to get solved—when everyone pitches in. Cohen and Lugo close by teasing another culinary adventure in Victoria and Mrs. Kosta’s future. As the friends contemplate a save-the-date poster for a community Thanksgiving celebration, Victoria asks, “Butternut squash pie?”

This lively reimagining of a Russian folktale is a reminder that big problems are more fun to tackle—and more likely to get solved—when everyone pitches in.

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