Me and Momma and Big John Mara Rockliff, illustrated by William Low (Candlewick Press) $16.99 We talk a lot here at BookNotes about the theological notion of calling, that we are all invited by God to step into a holy vocation, where our deepest gifts and passions and guided into work that matters. This is a tremendously useful book that is stunningly beautiful to gently raise conversations about work with young children. As a young child the author herself watched stone cutters working in the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine — the “Big John” of the story — so this tale of a craftsperson working to build the New York cathedral is spot on. Momma comes home from work tired and sore, explaining to her son that she works on just one stone. As it says on the flyleaf, “This touching story, inspired by one of the first women in the United States to learn the traditional craft of stonecutting, lovingly shows how having pride in one’s work, and ones momma, comes with great grace and dignity…As Momma tells John, “Building a cethedral isn’t just a job, it’s an art.”” William Low is an award-winning illustrator and painter himself. It is so nice to see the warmth of the cathedral, and the details of the interesting tools.
Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing Sally Lloyd-Jones, illustrated by Jago (ZonderKidz) $16.99 This handy-sized hardback is in many ways a companion devotional to her extraordinary, amazingly good children’s Bible, The Jesus Storybook Bible (ZonderKidz; $16.99 in hardback, $27.99 in a deluxe tan leather edition.) Jago’s clever artwork is more mature, here, very creative and striking — perhaps less playful, giving these wonderful meditations a bit more weight. These are substantive devotionals, still for elementary children, and we could hardly find a better young child’s collection of short pieces that this. As Sally plainly says in the first line of her brief note to young readers, “These thoughts are to remind you of things that are true.” Tim Keller’s foreword assures us that these one or two page devotions are “saturated with an understanding of the gospel.” What fun! What solid insight! What great art! One of the best books of it’s kind we’ve ever seen! Maybe you should get it for adults you know, too.
Mimi’s Village: And How Basic Health Care Transformed It Katie Smith Milway, illustrated by Eugenie Fernandes (Kids Can Press) $18.95 We care all of the books in the wonderful DitizenKid collection (If The World Were a Village, One Well, One Hen, The Good Garden and others.) We think they are fabulous; great ways to teach kids about the world and it’s diversity and beauty and great needs. Who doesn’t wish children could grow up with a more charitable global vision, and as good citizens? These are so well done, and this new one is as good as any in the set. You don’t think a gift about basic health card sounds that thrilling? Trust me, it is a sweet story, informative, and interesting, with great and playful artwork. As Richard Sterns (The Hole in Our Gospel) the President of World Vision, writes of it, “Mimi’s Village is an engaging story with two simple, yet profound messages…First, basic things like clean water, hand-washing, and protection for mosquitoes have the power to save millions of lives for children around the world…The second message is equally important — every child, no matter where he or she lives, can make a meaningful difference in the lives of others.” Highly recommended.
It’s a…It’s a…It’s a Mitzvah Liz Suneby & Diane Heiman, illustrations by Laurel Molk (Jewish Lights) $18.99 Do you know the charming inter-faith books by Sandy Sasso? This is the same publisher, the same sort of upbeat and at time uproarious tone as hers. Inspired by “The Mitzvah Project” this tells of these goofy mice who don’t quite get what it means to do faith-based good deeds for others. Yep, it’s a mitzvah when you do that. A simple, delightful read-aloud to help children learn to be nice, to play well, to do good. There is this rich moral vocabulary within Judaism, but anybody can enjoy this story with playful dialogue to illustate welcoming new friends, forgiving mistakes, respecting elders, sharing food, and the like.
13 Painters Children Should Know (Prestel) $14.95 We carry other books in this series of museum-quality art-related books for kids, and they are all very well done, with vibrant reproductions of great art. Wow. In this case, the text focuses in upon (and the artwork illustrates) the work and lives of mostly well known artists such as Bosch, Titian, Rembrandt, Cezanne, Dali. There are some lesser known artists as well and this explains not only who they are but why they are important. These artists painting styles were as varied as the times in which they lives. A nice glossary and timeline helps make this both enjoyable and very educational.
Saint Francis of Assisi Demi (Wisdom Tales) $19.95 A decade or two ago, Demi was all the rage, an extra-special artist who did detailed illustrations, cartoon-like but made glorious with the use of bright golds and reds. Her titles have sold over half a million copies and many have received fabulous awards and honors. This is not her first religious book, but it is surely one of the crowning achievements of her prestigious career — it is just a splendid edition. There is so much detail in the medieval pictures (the cover does not do it justice) and there is a nearly iconic look to much of it (the Byzantine halo over Francis for instance.) The text, too, is not overly simple, so this isn’t for the very young — perhaps best for ages 7 or 8 and up. (There is one scene of the crusades that shows much blood being splattered.) It is very informative about this crazy follower of Jesus and his many good efforts to be faithful to Christ. The final scene does show the odd story of his body being seen being lifted up into sky towards paradise, and such hagiography may present a good opportunity to talk about truth and legend in historical books. This is vivid, beautiful, moving, and very highly recommended.
Seed by Seed: The Legend and Legacy of John “Appleseed” Chapman Esme Raji Co
dell, illustrated by Lynne Rae Perkins (Greenwillow) $16.99 I knew from the moment I saw this that this would be one of our favorite picture books of the year! We adore this book. It has brightly colorful artwork, done in fairly traditional oil paintings, except a few pages that seem embroidered on cloth and one that looks like a map. It is creative, but not wild or zany. Also wonderful about this is how it teaches the five principles left by Mr. Chapman (born in 1774 in Massachusetts.) It explains “Use what you have,” “Share what you have,” “Respect nature,” “Try to make peace where there is war,” and “You can reach your destination by taking small steps.” It is very interesting and helpful to contrast the fast-paced and noisy world of today with Chapman’s desire for simplicity, a more sustainable relationship with creation, and his own slower pace of life. The artwork is nice, the sentiments good. I don’t care for the last line, which you may want to talk about with your child (but what else are good books for, after all?) It reads “His sweet spirit lives on in the apples we eat and in the seeds we plant to make our country and our world a better place.” I’m not sure what it means to say his spirit lives on in the apples — poetically, this may be so. Taken literally, it verges on pantheism. So, as always, be prepared for curious questions and good conversations. And don’t be surprised if you child wants to plant some seeds or grows up to be a peacemaker. We can hope!
Whose Butt? Stan Tekiela (Adventure Publications) $14.95 I have a bookseller friend who told me he can’t keep this book in stock. Maybe our customers are more genteel, but, you know, this could be just the ticket for some little guy who doesn’t find himself attracted to many kid’s books. Yep, it includes close up photographs of the rear ends of a dozen or so animals. Each facing spread has on the left a description of something notable about this particular animal butt, with the next page showing the close up, with the question “Whose Butt Is This?” Then, turn the page, and see a full (frontal) shot of the hen, bear, pheasant, deer or skunk (etc.) and a nicely informative bit of further information about them. The author is a legitamate naturalist and wildlife photographer. Butts are funny so this will help you “get to the bottom” of animals in a way that is both giggle-worthy and educational.
he Sky of Afghanistan Ana A. de Eulate, illustrated by Sonja Wimmer (Cuento De Luz) $15.95 Our country has been at war with Afghanistan for a long, long, time, and yet many of us do not know much about their intriguing land. (Or, our children might just think of their people as all bad, Muslim terrorists, etc.) Perhaps we may recall from the moving novel The Kite Runner that they are renown for flying kites. Ahhh, the sky, there, is apparently so lovely. As this little Afghan girl, so nicely hand drawn, says “the sky can be full of kites, I think, but also full of dreams. My dream flies high, high up towards the stars.” This author has wonder international medals for children’s stories and a year ago Ms Wimmer won a Gold Medal for Best Illustrator for The Word Collector. Very artful, nicely designed with the soft hues of wooden pencil — a song for peace.
Birds of a Feather Pittau & Gervais (Chronicle Books) $24.99 This clever duo did the extraordinary large-sized lift-the-flap book of animals Out of Sight a few years ago and this is their brand new one, and it is amazing! As I gently turned the thick pages, and slowly peeked under the very creative flaps and slides, I could hardly contain my joy — what a creative work this is! Like its predecessor, it is nearly 16″ x 12″ (almost like a coffee table book) and the colorful surprises that await under the flaps will delight over and over. There are birds and beaks and feathers and eggs (oooh, wait ’til you see the speckled Robin eggs!) More than handsome and more than educational, this is thrilling. What a very special gift to celebrate the glories of this aspect of God’s good creation.
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