Category Archives: PICTURE BOOKS +

17 chapter books to check out

I primarily feature picture books here, but I’ve been reading so many great chapter books over the last couple of years (plus, they have pictures too!), that I wanted to round up some recent favorites. I hope you’ll add in the comments any chapter book gems I’ve missed.

A range of page counts are included here, in no particular order, and many if not most of these are part of a series with more than one installment for kid readers to gobble up. (Disclosure that some of these I read quite some time ago and aren’t as fresh in my mind for fully fleshed out descriptions as others. But know I enjoyed them all!)

 

Meet Yasmin by Saadia Faruqi, illustrated by Hatem Aly (2018).

The first installment (with more in the series!) is a compilation of four delightful short stories with illustrations to match. The MC, Yasmin, who is Pakistani American, is creative and bold while also finding her way through sometimes being worried or unsure. Relatable and full of spirit and fun, this one is a true treat.

 

 

Jasmine Toguchi: Mochi Queen by Debbi Michiko Florence, illustrated by Elizabet Vukovic (2017).

The ace design of this cover is a perfect preview to what lies inside this terrific book. I like the relatability of a girl who wants to do something designated for older kids, and for boys. I also like that this explores the tradition of making mochi for the new year, and other aspects of Japanese and Japanese American culture. The drawings complement the story beautifully.

 

 

Beatrice Zinker, Upside Down Thinker by Shelley Johannes (2017).

A wonderful chapter book about friendship, flexibility, and change with a uniquely funny and charming character at its (upside down) heart. “Some losses were worse than others. A secret base was replaceable. Lenny Santos was not.”

 

 

Jada Jones: Rock Star by Kelly Starling Lyons, illustrations by Vanessa Brantley Newton (2017).

In this sweet, engaging chapter book, Jada Jones is not the kind of rock star that first comes to mind. Nope, she loves rocks! A budding geologist, she’s navigating a science project and friendships after her bestie moves away, finding solutions and never giving up.

 

 

 

Juana & Lucas by Juana Medina (2016).

Juana is clever and funny as she tells the reader about her life. I adore how she introduces the characters (Lucas her dog, her friend Juli, the city of Bogotá where she lives, her tía, abuelo, and more) by way of illustrated diagrams. Plus, while Juana is learning English in the story, readers are either learning or recognizing the Spanish words weaved in.

 

 

 

 

Two Dogs in a Trench Coat go to School by Julie Falatko, illustrations by Colin Jack (2018).

An exceedingly funny chapter book about two dogs who, worried about this school place their boy has to spend his days, impersonate a student in order to protect and investigate. Turns out, these dogs LOVE school! Needless to say, hilarity ensues.

 

 

 

Power Forward: Zayd Saleem, Chasing the Dream by Hena Khan (2018).

Lucky for readers, Hena Khan, author of Amina’s Voice and several exquisite picture books, is bringing her writing to the chapter book arena. I was lucky enough to hear her present this book at Once Upon A Time Books in Los Angeles. A nicely paced story about basketball, following your passion, and a warm and well-drawn family you’ll definitely want to read more of.

 

 

Stella Díaz Has Something to Say by Angela Dominguez (2018).

I had the great pleasure of blurbing this book! Stella’s story is relatable, honest, and warm-hearted. She certainly has a lot to say to young readers as she learns that just like the starfish who shares her name—Estrella—she is stronger than she thinks.

 

 

A Boy Called Bat by Elana K. Arnold, illustrated by Charles Santoso (2017).

This book, its title main character, and the baby skunk he cares for are all delightful. Shout out to the well-drawn sibling and parent characters in this one, too.

 

 

 

Sarai and the Meaning of Awesome by Sarai Gonzalez and Monica Brown (2018).

Filled with family and positivity, this book was inspired by the story of real eleven-year-old Sarai Gonzalez. In the fictional story, Sarai’s grandparents are forced to leave their home so Sarai hatches a plan to raise money to help them—with chicha morada and cupcakes.

 

 

 

Polly Diamond and the Magic Book by Alice Kuipers and Diana Toledano.

This one had me at the concept. Polly receives a book that makes anything she writes actually happen! Full of magical misunderstandings and charming illustrations, it’s perfect for developing readers (and writers!) who are fans of magic and imagination.

 

 

 

Princess in Black by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale, illustrated by LeUyen Pham.

The most adorable illustrations and girl power adventures make this series another winner.

 

 

King & Kayla by Dori Hillestad Butler, illustrated by Nancy Meyers.

Who doesn’t love a gentle mystery to solve? My favorite part about this series is that Kayla’s dog, King, is the one leading the way and figuring out clues before the human characters do. It’s a fun, inventive twist and has humor and repetition to boot.

 

 

Heartwood Hotel by Kallie George, illustrated by Stephanie Graegin (2017).

A sweet and thoughtful story with tender adventure and the theme of finding one’s place and home.

 

 

Lola Levine by Monica Brown, illustrated by Angela Dominguez (2015).

The irrepressible Lola is a spunky soccer player who wants to be in the school play. I read this one quite a while ago as a library borrow, but Lola made a lasting impression.

 

 

 

Super Happy Party Bears by Marcie Colleen.

A tittle to dance about! The stars of this series are super happy party bears indeed, but they live in the Grumpy Woods. Not to worry though, nothing gets them down and they get others to come around as well. A lively, bright, snappy story.

 

 

Zoey and Sassafras by Asia Citro, illustrated by Marion Lindsay (2017).

Zoey follows a clue to find out that her mom secretly helps magical animals. In this story, Zoey discovers her own magical animal in need. Magic + the scientific method = a terrific combination.

 

 

Your turn! What’s one of your fave chapter books?

 

you’re snug with me cover and artwork reveal!

I’m delighted to share the cover of You’re Snug With Me (out in October) by Chitra Soundar and Poonam Mistry today here on This Picture Book Life!

 

I recently posted on You’re Safe With Me, the first book from this duo and am so excited there’s a counterpart coming out from Lantana Publishing.

The first book was about forest animals who were afraid of the sights and sounds of the forest at night.  Mama Elephant reassured them that the natural world was there to do its job and even nourish them. It was a lullaby of comfort.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the follow-up, You’re Snug With Me, two bear cubs are born in the frozen north, in the den their mother has made them. They ask questions about the unknown outside their cozy home and their mother explains the seasons and the world, preparing them for what lies beyond and nurturing the need to take good care of it.

 

From the first book to the second, we go from summer to winter. Warmth to cold. Community to family. Forest to frozen north. Rich green to icy blue. While the setting has shifted and the cast of characters has gotten smaller, the comforting lullaby quality of security and snugness remains. These are perfect companion books, both grounded in nature and love and safety.

 

And… here’s the cover of You’re Snug With Me! In person, it glistens and sparkles like sun on snow!

And we’ve got a sneak peek of some beautiful interior spreads as well. Poonam Mistry uses the same exquisite style as the previous book, but this one with cool tones—butter yellow, lavender, crisp white, and ice-blue. And while the first book featured the dance of animals and natural elements on the page, this one zooms in on the relationship between mother and cubs, the sphere of family that feels to the very young like the whole world.

 

“The second story started with the idea of a hibernating polar bear and when I did the research to find out more, I fell in love with the scene of the cubs discovering their landscape for the first time. The challenge was to find elements that a polar bear cub should be introduced to and I had to go beyond the obvious – what’s underneath the ocean, what’s up in the sky. Also I couldn’t write about polar bears without worrying about the melting ice and somehow incorporating the role of every big predator in protecting it.”

—Chitra Soundar

 

“It was exciting working on You’re Snug With Me because it was outside of my usual comfort zone. I researched knitwear patterns and Inuit textiles and clothing and incorporated some of these patterns into my drawings so that it was different to the first book but there was still some continuity in the style of the artwork.

I don’t often work in pastel colours but it was important to reflect the wintry setting of the story and use these colours to highlight the beautiful landscapes of the Arctic.”

—Poonam Mistry

 

Breathtaking artwork and a beautiful story with a gentle environmental theme, this is a book to take in, to ponder, to read while snug with loved ones.

Look for it in October!

 

Chitra Soundar is an Indian-born British writer and storyteller. She is inspired by the rich epics and folktales of India, its diverse culture and its natural beauty. She has over 30 books in print worldwide and has been published by Otter-Barry Books, Walker Books and Red Robin Books. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Poonam Mistry is a UK-based illustrator of Indian heritage. Her work is heavily influenced by nature, folklore and traditional Indian art. With a degree in Graphic Design and Illustration, she produces artwork for clients around the world. 

 

 

 

 

 

Big thanks to Lantana for images (and a review copy)!

 

 

 

You might want to check out the amazing paper star craft Poonam Mistry shared for the first installment in this series, You’re Safe With Me! There’s a template so you can make one too!

 

 

 

 

 

5 years of this picture book life + giveaway!

5 years! So many picture book posts!

To celebrate, I’d like to give away 5 sets of picture books on different themes.

Each one has its own Rafflecopter—enter one or two or all five! (North America only.)

 

Set #1: SUMMERTIME!

Saffron Ice Cream; The Manic Panic; Surf’s Up (board book); The Lost Picnic.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

Set #2: BIOGRAPHY!

Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black HistoryPreaching to the Chickens: The Story of Young John Lewis; Miguel y su valiente caballero: El joven Cervantes sueña a don Quijote; Little Guides to Great Lives: Amelia Earhart; Dangerous Jane; A Boy and a Jaguar.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Set #3: BEING YOURSELF!

Julián Is a Mermaid; Alma and How She Got Her Name; Always Anjali.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

Set #4: SCIENCE!

How to Code a Sandcastle; The Brilliant Deep; Bonkers About Beetles; Follow the Moon Home; Over and Under the Pond.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

Set #5: READING, STORY, LANGUAGE, AND IMAGINATION

How to Read a Story; Nimesh the Adventurer; Read the Book, Lemmings; The Word Collector; A Child of Books.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

 

 

picture book gems a librarian recommends: alia from read it real good

I’m thrilled to have Alia from Read it Real Good here to share picture book gems she recommends as a librarian, former bookseller, and blogger! You can learn more about her here and check out her list of resources on diverse children’s literature from her blog as well. Get ready to go to the bookstore or have your library card ready because she’s sharing some of her favorite recent and backlist picture books with us!

 

Over to Alia!

 

 

 Black Girl Magic by Mahogany L. Browne/Jess X. Snow

 

This illustrated poem begins with “This book is for you.” And yes it is. It is unabashedly black, young and full of truth and positive affirmations for young black women. Perfect for ages 7 – tween, Black Girl Magic is raw and honest. Snow’s illustrations beautifully accompany Browne’s powerful poetry. Yes, black girls, you are magic. You are strong and let NO ONE tell you any different.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where’s Halmoni? by Julie Kim

 

It’s hard to believe that this is Julie Kim’s debut picture book. Well, it’s more of a picture book/graphic novel hybrid. Korean-American kids Joon and his Noona (big sister) visit their grandmother’s house to find that she’s gone, the house is a mess and huge cat-prints are everywhere! >_< Kim takes readers on a journey to a land of trickster rabbits, hungry goblins and angry tigers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 El Primer Corte de Mesita de Furqan – Furqan’s First Flat Top by Robert Liu-Trujillo & translated by Cinthya Muñoz

Ten year old Furqan takes a trip to the barbershop for his first cut. He wants to try a new flat top for his thick, curly hair, but he’s a little scared of change. His dad lovingly reassures him that his hair is gonna come out fresh, no matter what. We get a peek into Furqan’s daily life. This bilingual story features loving parents and a supportive community. Liu-Trujillo’s watercolor & ink illustrations portray so much joy and love.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Up! How Families Around the World Carry Their Little Ones  by Susan Hughes/Ashley Barron

 

I love picture books that use non-traditional mediums like paper, cloth, string, etc. Barron’s illustrations for Up! are gorgeous and unique. They invite you to stare at them for long moments. We learn a bit about how different people around the world carry & transport their little ones. I love the inclusiveness of the illustrations and the bouncy rhythm of the text.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All Around Us  by Xelena González/Adriana M. Garcia

 

It’s special whenever our elders share knowledge with us; it’s something not to be taken for granted. All Around Us is about a little girl and the lessons she learns from her grandfather. They have such a beautiful relationship! He teaches her about circles, continuity and how people are a part of the earth. The illustrations are so beautifully TRIPPY. I appreciate how this book celebrates family, indigeneity and tradition.

 

 

 

 

 

 

We Are Brothers by Yves Nadon/Jean Claverie

 

Black brotherly love. Strength. Growing up. This quiet picture book explores the relationship between two brothers and how love, support and encouragement are so important. Climbing up and jumping off the top of a cliff into a lake sure is scary but…you’ll never know how much fun it is until you try. I love the soft illustrations in this book and the scenes of transformation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Backlist Favorites:

 

Where Do We Go When We Disappear?  by Isabel Minhós Martins/Madalena Matoso

 

This is a reflective and thought-provoking picture book about death, loss, or the simple act of someone/something being gone. When I was a bookseller, it was hard to find good books to give to parents to help their kids grieve. This is a great one because it helps begin a discussion about CHANGE. Matoso’s illustrations are bold and colorful and Martins is such a thoughtful writer.

 

 

 

 

 

Sidewalk Flowers by JonArno Lawson/Sydney Smith

 

A young girl and her father take a walk through their neighborhood. Though he’s on his phone for most of the journey, he is present. He is there. She’s on a mission to find flowers and share them as gifts. Smith’s use of color is exquisite in this wordless picture book. We see color when we need to. We watch it bloom. We watch their love as they walk together.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ten Nine Eight  by Molly Bang

 

Wow, what a throwback this one is. I remember it from my childhood. Can I tell you how special it is to see a little black girl sitting with her daddy, eyes sleepy, getting ready for bed? With its soft, warm illustrations, this book reminds me of the love I shared with my father. Ten, Nine, Eight is a counting book that also celebrates Black Family. It’s also available as a board book! How perfect. 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alia Jones is a Sr. Library Services Assistant with The Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County. She is also a former indie children’s bookseller and English teacher in South Korea. She blogs about diverse books & children’s literature at www.readitrealgood.com. You can also follow her on Twitter @readitrealgood. Alia believes that we are truly in a Picture Book Renaissance; there is so much talent out there.

 

 

 

 

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the field: an interview with baptiste paul and jacqueline alcántara

The Field by Baptiste Paul, pictures by Jacqueline Alcántara (March 2018).

I love how this picture book begins the way it ends, with “Vini!” (Come!)—the field itself beckoning. Indeed, The Field calls out to both its characters and its readers: come, be part of play and life and friends and home.

Chronicling one day spent joyfully playing futbol despite obstacles, it’s full of dynamic action and camaraderie. Both the text with English and Saint Lucian Creole words, as well as beautifully vibrant, varied illustrations, make this fantastic story truly move. It’s a standout.

 

 

 

And I’m so lucky to be able to share an interview with the author, Baptiste Paul, and illustrator, Jacqueline Alcántara with you today so you can hear more about them and their process! They both answered the same set of questions, so in a true treat, we get to hear both their perspectives.

(click image(s) to enlarge)

 

This Picture Book Life: What is your own experience with futbol/soccer and how did it inform THE FIELD?

Baptiste Paul: As a child, I played futbol/soccer a lot. I always played barefoot — not by choice but by circumstance. Soccer was my escape from my reality — the poverty I faced as a child. It was my safe space. It was a place where my friends and I learned to navigate and solve problems. Sometimes, we got into a few scuffles but always found a way to solve our differences before the game ended. It was the place where I was the happiest — the place where the hardships magically disappeared and where Creole came to life. I am a believer in you write what you know and writing about futbol while speaking my native language was a natural fit.

Jacqueline Alcántara: While I didn’t play a lot of soccer growing up, I did play some pick-up games with friends throughout high school and in my backyard, with my dad when I was younger. But I love the universality of the game and it’s one of the only sports I can tolerate watching on TV! (go Barça!) One of my favorite memories from visiting family in Honduras is a nighttime soccer game in the mountains with a few cousins and some little kids from the neighborhood. We played in cowboy boots with a beat up old ball, on a field, just like the one in this book and under a huge night sky with stars so big it felt like you could pull one down. I definitely reached back into that memory to remember what that place and time felt like, and just the humor and excitement that goes along with any impromptu game.

 

TPBL: This story is so full of joyful action. How did you go about creating that kind of action? Baptiste, how did you develop and craft the story to be so active and Jacqueline, how did you accomplish that dynamic movement through the illustrations?

Baptiste Paul: The game I played as a child was jam packed with fun. We made the most out of every game — even on rainy days — we were unstoppable. We played for hours. The use of Creole words, adds that joyfulness and makes the story complete. When we played, these were the words we yelled out and being authentic to the story meant I had to use creole words. The Creole words in the text might look simple but they are alive and they have emotions.

Jacqueline Alcántara: Well, I absolutely love illustrating action / movement sequences. I did a lot of figure sketching to start – gathering imagery from movies, photos, youtube videos, etc., of people playing soccer around the world, then deciding which movements worked for each character. I tried exaggerating some of those movements to create an even more dynamic composition. I think it feels joyful as well because the nature of a pick-up game is so different than something organized – there’s more unity and camaraderie amongst the players and I tried to portray that through everyone working together, helping each other, and celebrating each other’s victories regardless of the team they were on. 

 

TPBL: What was it like seeing the artwork or text for the first time?

Baptiste Paul: I was very emotional. My world, the one I envisioned and the one I wanted to share with the world was now a reality. As I flipped through each page, I kept stopping to wipe the tears and to revisit my childhood. I saw myself chasing the animals off the field and that brought back special memories.

Jacqueline Alcántara: As I read through the manuscript the first time, I had a strong vision of the whole story – character setting, colors, everything! I instantly loved the language Baptiste used and after a few more readings, I realized there was a real beauty in the specific words and phrases he chose that allowed me a very clear direction of his vision, but it also left a lot open to my interpretation – which made it such a fun and gratifying process. 

 

TPBL: Please tell us about your process from concept to finished product. Where did you start? How did the project come to be? How were you paired and did you collaborate at all?

Baptiste Paul: I always start with a memory or an idea. The Field as a children’s book came on a day that I was playing outside in the rain with my kids. Realizing the importance of a moment or an idea and applying universal themes is powerful. I realized that the moments I spent playing in the rain (and mud) brought back happy memories. My process involves, a pencil, memo book, asking lots of questions like who, what, why where, when and how and pacing back and forth talking to myself.

Pairing was completely coincidental and yes we collaborated only once during the entire process. In fact, I included only one illustrator’s note in the text.  

Jacqueline Alcántara: Once I got the green light, I started by writing out some really rough ideas for the narrative of the illustration and sketching quick compositions. I knew I wanted the illustrations to embrace that super fulfilling feeling you get after having the best-day-ever playing with friends.  So, I decided I wanted the illustrations to go from one character playing alone, to seeking out friends, to ending with that feeling of friendship, love and exhaustion! And I knew I wanted the cast of characters to be somewhat diverse in age and appearance – after all that’s the fun of pick-up!

I then worked on sketching out ideas for characters; pulling ideas from stories my dad told me about people he grew up playing soccer with in Honduras, and incorporating random personal memories of people or outfits or attitudes that popped up while sketching. It wasn’t until I spoke with my mentor, Carolyn Dee Flores, that I starting really thinking about the storm and the field as key characters themselves! It felt so obvious after she mentioned it to me – after all “The Field” is the title of the book and therefore the main character right?!

After sketches, I played a lot with color, even though I had really clear ideas of the colors I wanted to use, I experimented with which medium (usually I use a combination of marker, gouache and photoshop) would be best suited for the different elements. I experimented a lot while creating the final illustrations to get the feel of the setting, the lighting, and the relationships as they all looked in my imagination. I think I got close!

TPBL: How would you sum up the spirit or theme of the book?

Baptiste Paul: It’s a celebration of friendship and play.

Jacqueline Alcántara: The book reminds me to never let anything get in the way of having fun, always being open to making new friends, and to jump over, slide under or dive straight into any obstacles! 

 

Big thanks to both Baptiste Paul and Jacqueline Alcántara for speaking with me, and to Nicole Banholzer for images! 

 

 

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