Staff Picks Grades K-2

April 2019

by JiHyeon Lee

A child finds a key to a mysterious door leading to a colorful, fantastical world full of friendly creatures. Author/illustrator Lee follows up her debut, Pool (2015), with another wordless tale of a child exploring an unfamiliar land. Readers will note the child gaining color as the book progresses and other creatures of all different types and sizes enter through numerous magical doors to attend the celebration. The creatures speak in a language that is written in squiggles, and the charming illustrations include details that illuminate the variety of their shapes, colors, and sizes as well as their cultures. Though neither readers nor protagonist can understand the language of these new friends, their welcoming warmth is clearly conveyed, and the child, in full color and smiling broadly, returns home through the magic door leaving the padlock open. This simple tale of being a stranger in a strange land is not new, but readers will be drawn to its quiet charm and welcoming message of inclusion.

by Christian Robinson

A small black cat wearing a red collar and an African American girl with colorful baubles in her hair take a peek into another dimension. The cat first notices a white oval that suddenly appears in the child's bedroom as she sleeps. In that oval is an image of an identical black cat wearing a blue collar that enters the girl's room and snaps up a toy mouse lying on the bedroom rug. The child wakes in time to see her pet follow its almost duplicate into the oval, and she, in turn, follows and immediately falls into a black hole, emerging in a topsy-turvy world where things are similar, but not exactly the same, as in her world. Children, some upright and some upside down, are shown in a variety of clothing and skin colors, partaking in various activities. Is this a parallel universe, or is it all a dream? Readers will decide, and a little blue mouse may help with the final decision.

What’s the Difference? Being Different is Amazing
by Doyin Richards

Richards' photo-rich picture book highlights the differences between people and affirms them as assets to be valued, not ignored. Created with pre- or emergent readers in mind, the book relies on visuals to communicate happiness and friendship among children who share interests although they are physically different from one another. Expressive photos, collected from the followers of the author's Instagram account, demonstrate how youngsters engage in all types of activities. The images are cropped into fun shapes, fitting into colorful backgrounds. Each page starts with the question "What's the difference" and continues with "all that matters is...." Girls and boys of a variety of racial and ethnic backgrounds demonstrate the concept that "understanding our differences will create an unbreakable bond." In Richards's words: "take a look at yourself. Your friends may not look like you, and that's a good thing. Because when it comes to love, keep showing that there really is no difference."

The Cars and Trucks Book
by Todd Parr

Working with his trademark bright colors, heavy lines, and smiley-faced people and animals, Parr celebrates automobiles. Short, occasionally rhyming phrases categorize different vehicles, which Parr renders with sharp teeth, wide grins, and friendly drivers. Parr's silly lines are softly tongue-twisting: "Some trucks haul dirt./ Some trucks play in the dirt./ Some trucks carry trucks./ Some trucks carry ducks.” A "ski patrol" car drives in the snow, while a blue race car with a yellow dog driver heads to the beach. Everybody knows that cars and trucks get lots done, but an endnote from Parr reminds readers "it's also good to take the bus or ride a bike."

The Big Princess
by Taro Miura

A geometric kaleidoscope of digital images and collage forms the bones of this winsome tale. The king and queen have no children, but they love and care for the flowers in their garden. One night, the king dreams of a white bird, who tells him he will find a princess in his garden but that she is under a wicked spell. The next day, the king finds a tiny, fully formed girl child, small enough to sleep on a feather. But the next day, she needs a ring box and the day after that, a teacup. She keeps growing and growing until she is too big for the castle! In the highest, biggest tower (it's a foldout), she keeps growing until the tower itself begins to break apart. The figures are made of circles, triangles, and half moons; the princess is blonde, while her parents have black hair, and the many flowers are rendered in splashy patterns. Originally published in Japan, the story has an offbeat sensibility that may particularly appeal to lovers of anime, emoji, and that Japanese fondness for cuteness, kawaii.

Playdates Rule!
by Rob McClurkan

This amusing book leaves most of the storytelling to the clever, over-the-top illustrations. A little (human) boy is excited about his first playdate. His best friend, Finley, (an elephant) arrives and the playdate has predictably disastrous results from the parents' point of view. The pals quickly discover that playdates have a lot of rules, such as "don't use your dad's bike" (the elephant has squashed it), and "don't help water your mom's plants" (Finley squirts a huge jet of water at Mom.) The story culminates when trampoline play gets Finley stuck in a hole he creates in the roof, requiring the aid of two firefighters. Finally, the playdate ends, leaving a wrecked house and exhausted and relieved parents in its wake.

Under My Hijab
by Hena Khan

A young girl watches the women in her life, paying close attention to how they wear their hijabs. Grandma carefully tucks in the ends of hers, like the pastry on the pies she bakes. Auntie, who is an artist, winds her silky hijab high on her head and pins it with a jewel. Iman's more sporty covering stays put while she competes for her martial-arts black belt. This book is a generous invitation by both author and illustrator to young Muslim girls to witness the variety of ways and reasons women wear hijabs. It is necessarily unsubtle, for it also considers the gaze of the outsider who may wonder and have questions. The women and girls the protagonist admires vary in profession, age, and race. They go about their lives with confidence and pride, choosing to style their hijabs according to circumstance or whimsy. An author's note explains when and why some Muslim women choose to cover, or not. Cheerful, colorful images complement the affirming tone and message of this timely book.

When Spring Comes
by Kevin Henkes

This book is perfect for those eager for winter's end. The beginning bright blue endpapers preview the joys and delights of spring: daffodils, robins, kites, and raindrops. A bleak wintertime blue-gray landscape quickly morphs into the pink-blossomed trees of April (If you wait, Spring will bring leaves and blossoms). Five sequential pictures humorously follow a snowman as he melts into a muddy mound of twigs for a happy robin to discover. The alliterative text bugs, bees, boots, and bubbles; worms, wings, wind, and wheels and if you wait refrain accompanies action-filled double-page spreads of children and animals galloping and bounding. The acrylic art is in rich full color, accented with vibrant pastels and subjects, most notably the three white kittens who dart from page to page, thickly outlined in black. At the book's end, bright yellow endpapers illustrate some of summer's anticipated delights, encouraging readers to look for toy boats, sand pails, beach balls, corn on the cob, and watermelon. Lyrical and elegant in its simplicity, this is an enchanting celebration of the season. Come see this book at our Storywalk! It’s located on the outdoor path off of Ravinia Ave. adjacent to the Village Center North Pond.

Shake a leg, egg!
by Kurt Cyrus

In rhyming text with sweet, upbeat touches and lovely illustrations, this celebrates nature's beauty as well as springtime's renewal. At a pond, a family of geese, including four goslings, are waiting for one last egg to hatch, but it's taking its time. Meanwhile, other geese rise and soar above. But where does every flight begin? / A nest. An egg. A chick like you. When the gosling finally makes its bleary-eyed appearance, the narrator warmly welcomes the new arrival: Meet the pond. / Greet the sun. / Say hello to everyone! Cyrus' intricately detailed, naturalistic illustrations nicely use varying perspectives. The bird's-eye views of the lively pond, teeming with lush foliage and a wide array of wildlife, are enlivened by close-ups of the goose, her nest of fluffy goslings, and the warm, remaining egg. This approachable picture book is a natural fit for a springtime read-aloud or for little ones nervous about coming out of their own metaphorical shells.

Split! Splat!
by Amy Gibson

This buoyant picture book begins with a girl slipping on her boots, raincoat, and hat; putting up her umbrella; and going outdoors on a rainy day. Joined by two high-spirited neighborhood children, her excited dog, and a happy little mouse, she begins quietly and gradually cuts loose, taking off her rain gear, dancing in the rain, squishing through puddles, and making mud pies. In three verses celebrating the rain, the mud, and the emerging sun, the text is playful, too. The words become the background music for the children's play. A typical line goes, I sing a little mud song, / a puddle song, / a muddle song, //a no-shoes, toes-ooze, / slip-slap-and-thud song. Bjorkman's jaunty ink-and-watercolor scenes capture the joyful, musical quality of the verse in the repeated curvy lines and dancy shapes of the children. As their play becomes wilder, the scenes become splattered with water and mud. A cheerful picture book to share on rainy days.