Review: Beyond the Pond

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GoldAardvarkGoldAardvarkGoldAardvarkGoldAardvarkGoldAardvark 5/5 aardvarks

Format: Picture book
Ages: 3-6
Author and illustrator: Joseph Kuefler
Publisher: Balzer & Bray (published October 2015)
Pages: 40
ISBN-10: 0062364278
ISBN-13: 978-0062364272

Just behind an ordinary house filled with too little fun, Ernest D. had decided today would be the day that he’d explore the depths of his pond.

Children always want to know things.

“What’s in that box?”

“What are you eating?”

“What’s under the surface of that pond?”

The trouble with the rushed and over-busy way we live right now is that instead of celebrating curiosity, we have created a world where curiosity is perceived as annoying, where we tell children “I don’t know, get in the car” and “We’ll look later” when they ask us “What’s that?” “What’s in there?” “How does that work?” We don’t have time to sit down with them, to wonder with them, to say, “I don’t know what’s in that pond; why don’t we find out together?”

Well, Ernest D. decides to find out on his own.

First he tries a stick, a fishing line, and a stone, but nothing hits the bottom of his pond. So he gathers his supplies, stretches three times, and dives . . .

. . . down between the fishes and the frogs, past the squid and sharks and shapeless things, into his pond forever deep.

I won’t reveal to you the wonders Ernest D. finds in his pond, nor the strange and astounding world he discovers on the other side. But I will tell you that when Ernest D. returns, nothing is as it was when he’d left.

His house seemed a little less small.

And his town looked a little less ordinary . . . Beyond every street and silent corner was a place unexplored.

“Exceptional,” said Ernest D.

[You can read a wonderful interview with Joseph Kuefler, including some preliminary sketches of the book, over at Design of the Picture book.]

 

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Review: Hannah’s Night

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GoldAardvarkGoldAardvarkGoldAardvarkGoldAardvarkGoldAardvark 5/5 aardvarks

Format: Picture book
Ages: 2-5
Author and illustrator: Komako Sakai
Publisher: Lerner Publishing Group (published March 2014)
Pages: 32
ISBN-10: 1877579548
ISBN-13: 978-1877579547

One day
when Hannah woke up,
she was surprised to find
that it was still dark.

I often wonder if my kids realize that the world doesn’t disappear while they’re sleeping. I wonder if they know that once they’re asleep Tall Dude and I have whole other experiences without them (granted, those experiences are frequently limited to Netflix, some wine, and this crack-popcorn my friend Lindsay introduced to us, but I feel like my kids would want in on that if they knew it was happening).

In Hannah’s Night, a little girl wakes up even later than Netflix-and-wine-o’clock, in the wee hours when her parents and her sister are still sleeping and Hannah and her cat Shiro are the only ones awake. Their discovery of the thrilling, silent nighttime world is told through Sakai’s gentle, understated text and textured acrylic-and-oil-pencil illustrations in a palette of deep blues and dark greys.

With no one to tell her what to do, Hannah gives Shiro some milk, helps herself to some cherries without asking, and through a window looks at the moon and discovers “the prettiest dove she’d ever seen.” She also helps herself to some of her sister’s toys, but as the sun rises, Hannah begins to yawn, snuggles up on the edge of her sister’s bed, and falls fast asleep. Sakai brings the sweet wonder of Hannah’s view and the simple magic of the night to life in this lovely bedtime tale.

[You can also enjoy an interview with Komako Sakai over at the wonderful Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast.]

Review: I Took the Moon for a Walk

TookTheMoon EditorsPick (2)

GoldAardvarkGoldAardvarkGoldAardvarkGoldAardvarkGoldAardvark 5/5 aardvarks

Format: Board book (also available as a picture book)
Ages: 2-5
Author: Carolyn Curtis
llustrator: Alison Jay
Publisher: Barefoot Books (published September 2008)
Pages: 36
ISBN-10: 1846862000
ISBN-13: 978-1846862007

I took the moon for a walk last night.

Children’s book publishing is a kind of vast ocean, filled with an enormous variety of books: some wonderful, some terrible, and a huge number just kind of meh.

This makes finding outstanding books for your kids a challenging process (which is where we come in), but it also means that every once in a while you stumble on an absolutely lovely gem of a book by serendipity.

Tiny J (now two years old) loves the moon. As soon as the sun sets, she’s craning her little neck at the sky, searching for that glowing orb, and the whole street will hear her joy if she finds it (or her sadness if the moon is hiding behind the clouds — this kid really feels her emotions). She loves the moon so much that for her second birthday party, we had a moon theme. Which turned out to be really easy because all you have to do is cut out moons and stars from Bristol board and stick them to the walls. (We went all out and made moon-shaped cookies, too.)

While we were visiting my sister’s family over the holidays, my sister, familiar with Tiny J’s passion for the moon, pulled out a moon-themed book from their shelves to read, and both Tiny J and I were just entranced by it.

I took the moon for a walk last night.
It followed behind like a still summer kite, 
Though there wasn’t a string or a tail in sight,
when I took the moon for a walk.

We tiptoed through grass where the night crawlers creep,
when the rust-bellied robins have all gone to sleep,

And the Moon called the dew so the grass seemed to weep,
when I took the Moon for a walk.

Lyrical and enchanting, this is just the loveliest bedtime book. It has become a staple in Tiny J’s bedtime rotation, so I hope my sister isn’t hoping to get her copy back anytime soon.

[If you’d like an easy art activity to go along with this book, there’s one over at I Heart Crafty Things.]

 

Review: You are not small

youarenotsmall

GoldAardvarkGoldAardvarkGoldAardvarkGoldAardvark 4/5 aardvarks

Format: Picture book
Ages: 2-5
Author: Anna Kang
Illustrators: Christopher Weyant
Publisher: Two Lions (published August 2014)
Pages: 32
ISBN-10: 1477847723
ISBN-13: 978-1477847725

You are small.

This begins You Are Not Small, with a very big furry creature telling a much smaller furry creature exactly what he (she? it?) thinks about her size. “I am not small,” replies the little guy (gal?). “You are big.” The big critter introduces the little critter to its friends (“They are just like me. You are small.”) and the little critter brings its friends into the mix (“They are just like me. You are big.”) and they duke it out for a while  with much shouting (“Big!” “Small!”) until a giant creature stomps into their midst with a BOOM and tiny creatures parachute in from the sky, and everyone peacefully resolves that size is relative after all and the creatures all wander off to grab something to eat, ending with one of the teeny-tinies telling the giant, “You are hairy.”

Tiny J has recently been saying “I can’t, I’m too little” a lot, which tells me that we — Tall Dude, her big sister, and I —are saying that to her too much. I got this book for Tiny J as a Christmas present to try to convince her that size is relative — you know, though she be but small, she is mighty (and she is mighty).

I don’t know whether the message is getting across, but I do know that when the giant creature BOOMS into the middle of the scene, it sets both of my kids off into peals of giggles, and that’s good enough for me. Tiny J hasn’t said “I can’t, I’m too little” in a few weeks, so maybe we’re getting there.

You are Not Small