Category Archives: PICTURE BOOKS +

20 terrific and true picture books

I learn so much from reading non-fiction picture books, and of course I’m sure kids do too! They give insight into historical figures and events, into the way people have solved problems and overcome incredible odds to follow a dream or to fight for justice, into the way dreamers and doers are formed.

With a new school year having started, I couldn’t help but think about a list of some recent favorites— standouts and truly terrific true stories.  Here goes!

 

Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat by Javaka Steptoe.

Terrific. Incredible. All the adjectives for this biography of Basquiat. “Art is the street games of little children, in our style and the words that we speak. It is how the messy patchwork of the city creates new meaning for ordinary things.”

 


Freedom in Congo Square by Carole Boston Weatherford and R. Gregory Christie.

Congo Square was the only place enslaved (and free) Africans were allowed to meet together in New Orleans in the 1800s, a place where they played music, danced, and shared news. It embodied the hope of freedom and both the succinct, powerful prose and evocative illustrations truly capture that.

 

 

I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark written by Debbie Levy, illustrations by Elizabeth Baddeley.

A boldly designed picture book about a bold person whose journey started at the library!

 

 

 

 

Whoosh!: Lonnie Johnson’s Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions by Chris Barton, illustrated by Don Tate.

This is truly a terrific book about an ingenious inventor. “…Because facing challenges, solving problems, and building things are what Lonnie Johnson loves to do. And his ideas just keep on flowing.”

 

 

 

Separate is Never Equal by Duncan Tonatiuh.

Another excellent book, this one documenting the case of Mendez vs. Westminster School District—Sylvia Mendez and her family’s fight to desegregate schools in California. Plus, I’m a big fan of Duncan Tonatiuh’s artwork (stay tuned!).

 

 

 

Crossing Bok Chito: A Choctaw Tale of Friendship & Freedom by Tim Tingle, illustrated by Jeanne Rorex Bridges.

An emotional story with stunning artwork of a Choctaw girl in the 1800s who befriends a little boy who’s a slave and then her family helps his escape to freedom.

 

 

Drum Dream Girl: How One Girl’s Courage Changed Music by Margarita Engle and Rafael López.

This one is inspired by the true story of Millo Castro Zaldarriaga who dreamed of drumming in Cuba despite gender restrictions and eventually had an all girls band with her sisters and became a famous musician. The dreamiest text and illustrations.

 

 

 


Wangari Masthai: The Woman Who Planted Millions of Trees by Frank Prévot, illustrated by Aurélia Fronty.

A breathtakingly beautiful book that tells of Wangari Maathai’s early life and obstacles in her reforestation work. “…a tree is worth more than its wood.”

 

 

 

Take a Picture of Me, James Van der Zee by Andrea Loney, illustrated by Keith Mallett.

A wonderful exploration of the life of photographer James Van Der Zee and the Harlem Renaissance as well as the way history shapes lives and lives shape history.

 

 

The Wolves of Currumpaw by William Grill.

A gripping tale of a legendary wolf and a man who had the capacity for change. A book for budding conservationists.

 

 


Her Right Foot by Dave Eggers, art by Shawn Harris.

With the Statue of Liberty as its subject, this one contains facts and laughs and cries and an important message about making the U.S. a welcoming place.

 

 

 

The Book Itch by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie.

Terrific in every way, this story of the National Memorial African Bookstore is also illustrated by a frequent appearer on this list—the talented R. Gregory Christie.

 

 

 

Are You an Echo?: The Lost Poetry of Misuzu Kaneko by David Jacobson, Sally Ito, and Michiko Tsuboi, illustrated by Toshikado Hajiri.

This is a poignant biography of a Japanese poet, followed by her poems. A wonderful (and honest) book.

 

 


A Time to Act: John F. Kennedy’s Big Speech by Shana Corey and R. Gregory Christie.

This is a fairly comprehensive biography of JFK given the short format and young audience. His childhood, his political rise, and his delay and then eventual speech and action on civil rights. It begins and ends with inspiration for young people, the readers of the book “to speak up, to act, to move the world forward—to make history.”

 

 

 

Tiny Stitches: The Life of Medical Pioneer Vivien Thomas by Gwendolyn Hooks, illustrated by Colin Bootman.

A story everyone should know about Vivien Thomas, a research assistant who developed a procedure to give children open heart surgery in the 1940s, but who was not credited because he was African American. This book recognizes his struggles and celebrates his contribution, as we should.

 

 

 

 

Cloth Lullaby: The Woven Life of Louise Bourgeois, words by Amy Novensky, pictures by Isabelle Arsenault.

A biography of the artist, Louise Bourgeois, whose life was like a cloth lullaby, woven together with the threads of her childhood, her mother, their family tapestry business, Parisian fabrics, memory, and stitching itself.

 

 

Emmanuel’s Dream: The True Story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah by Laurie Ann Thompson & Sean Qualls.

The story of a boy born with one leg who biked close to 400 miles when no one believed he could.

 

 

Firebird by Misty Copeland and Christopher Myers.

A gorgeous book told in second person as a kind of letter of encouragement to a young girl to follow her dreams, filled with fiery, vibrant illustrations.

 

 

Swan: The Life and Dance of Anna Pavlova by Laurel Snyder, illustrated by Julie Morstad.

Another special book about dance and finding your passion, pursuing it despite obstacles and through practice, and sharing its joy with others. You can read my interview with the author here.

 

 

 

 

Grace Hopper:  Queen of Computer Code written by Laurie, Hallmark, illustrated by Katy Wu.

An amazing biography of a woman who from a young age was a creative whiz at figuring out how things work and solving problems. When she grew up, she used her skills to transform computer programming and also coin the term “computer bug.”

 

 

You might be interested in another post: Knock Your Socks Off Non-fiction Picture Books about the Natural World.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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4 years of this picture book life giveaway!

I want to celebrate four years of This Picture Book Life by giving away picture books! (Of course!)

I receive a lot of wonderful review copies in a year from generous publishers, so I want to share some of them with you.

There will be FOUR winners of a pair of picture books on a theme!

And there will be one winner of FOUR titles I really liked!

Away we go!

A pair of books about children around the world:

The Barefoot Book of Children by Tessa Strickland, Kate DePalama, and David Dean (2016) &

This Is How We Do It  by Matt Lamothe (2017).

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

A pair of books with super surprise endings:

Polar Bear’s Underwear by tupera tupera (2015) &

Don’t Wake Up the Tiger  by Britta Teckentrup (2016).

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

 

A pair of two of my favorite picture books of 2017:

Love Is  by Diane Adams, illustrated by Claire Keane (2017) &

Professional Crocodile   by Giovanna Zoboli and Mariachiara Di Giorgio (coming August 2017).

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

 

A pair of playful picture books:

Play With Me by Michelle Lee (2017) &

It’s Great Being a Dad  by Dan Bar-el, illustrated by Gina Perry.

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

 

 

BONUS GIVEAWAY: four wonderful picture books!!

Adrift at Sea by Marsha Forchuk Dkrypuch with Tuan Ho, art by Brian Deines (2016).

The Girl Who Ran by Frances Polette and Kristina Yee, illustrated by Susanna Chapman (2017).

I Know Numbers! by Taro Gomi (September, 2017).

Lily’s Cat Mask  by Julie Fortenberry (2017).

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Cheers to another year of picture books!

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COVER REVEAL! INKY’S GREAT ESCAPE + GIVEAWAY

Casey Lyall is the author of the wonderfully narrated middle grade detective novel, Howard Wallace, P.I. And her first picture book is coming out November 7th, 2017: Inky’s Great Escape. It’s illustrated by Sebastià Serra, and I’m delighted to be able to share the cover with you today!

“Based on a true story, this tale follows a daring, Houdini-esque octopus as he performs his greatest escape act yet.”

“In April 2016, The New York Times published an article about an octopus named Inky who escaped from the National Aquarium of New Zealand through a drainpipe and into the sea. In this charming fictionalized account, Inky, worn out from his exciting life in the ocean, has retired to the aquarium. There he quietly plays cards, makes faces at the visitors, and regales his tankmate Blotchy with tales of his past adventures. Then Blotchy dares Inky to make one more great escape: out of their tank. Will Inky succeed?”

 

 

Here’s the colorful, dynamic cover! (I especially like the block print quality of the title and sea surroundings and the energy that seems to emanate to and from Inky.)

 

  In honor of the cover reveal, Casey and Sebastià did a little Q & A about the design of the octopus characters:

“Sebastià, how did you come up with the design for the characters of Inky and Blotchy?”

Sebastià: The first sketches show a more naturalized version of Inky and Blotchy, with the head back like it is in a true octopus. I knew this wouldn’t be the final version because the characters were really fun and lovely and, bit by bit, the curves softened, the eyes grew and moved up the head, and the head gained importance in relation to the tentacles. All these changes were made with the intent of getting a more expressive face because this was a main point in Casey’s text – full of expressive nuances in the characters. Really it was a surprise for me to discover how expressive an octopus can be.

“Casey, what was your first reaction when you saw the artwork for Inky’s Great Escape?”
Casey: Total and utter delight! When I work on characters, I think more about the voice – how they think and talk so I really had no preconceived notions about how Blotchy and Inky would look. And I’m so glad I didn’t because what Sebastià came up with was better than anything I could have imagined. First of all, I loved the colours – everything was so bright and vibrant. But Inky and Blotchy are my favourite part because I think Sebastià captured them perfectly. The different facial expressions and body language are all spot on and totally in sync with the text. He brought them to life in the best way possible. 
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Casey is giving away one copy of Inky’s Great Escape! Since it’s not out yet, this will be a pre-order, shipping in November. Something to look forward to!

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10 picture book gems a bookseller recommends

I have a treat for you today. Jen Pino from Vroman’s Bookstore in Pasadena, California has ten picture book gems she recommends! Jen is a passionate bookseller and a delightful person, and I thought it would be neat to find out what picture books are on her radar right now, and have her pass them along to you!

 

Over to Jen!

 

The World of Work by Silvie Sanža, illustrated by Milan Stary (2017).

 

I love that this book features ALL TYPES of jobs. When you are little, I feel like you only get exposed to the jobs your parents do, firefighters, doctors, police, and teachers. This book has so many more. This includes working for the Mountain Rescue Service, being an Operational Planner or even….a Bookseller!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How Things Are Made by Olderich Reueziecka, illustrated by Alexandra Hetmerovaa (2016).

This is another amazing non-fiction title! Each page features a different way an object is made. Some examples are: a spoon, bread, and a t-shirt! The pages have basic summaries at first, then you can lift the flaps to get even more details!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One Word From Sophia by Jim Averbeck and Yasmeed Ismail (2015).

This book is charming. I instantly fell in love with Sophia and her quest to own a giraffe. Several family members stand in the way of her desire, but Sophia, not one to be easily dissuaded, provides multiple arguments, complete with presentations, pie charts and stellar vocabulary, as she makes her case. Colorful, engaging pictures enhance the book’s delight. Additionally, this book serves as a tremendous resource of SAT worthy vocabulary.

 

 

 

 

 

 

That Neighbor Kid by Daniel Miyares (2017).

Daniel Miyares has been one of my favorite illustrators for a while. Whenever he has something new coming out, I am eager to see what it’s going to be. In this, budding curiosity turns into a beautiful friendship. When the colors on the page go from black and white to warm shades, I get chills. So so good.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Rory the Dinosaur Wants a Pet by Liz Climo (2016).

This is seriously the sweetest book and Rory is endearing as he searches for a pet to love. Liz Climo causes your heart to soar as you witness childhood imagination and innocence in its purest form.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dylan the Villain by K.G. Campbell (2016).

This is a super funny book for all the little super villains in your life. Dylan strives to be the “very best and cleverest super-villain in the whole wide world.” But will Addison Van Malice and some purple parsnip preserves stand in the way of that?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When Jackie Saved Grand Central by Natasha Wing, illustrated by Alexandra Boiger (2017).

This is another book that gives me chills each time I read it. I never knew what Grand Central had to go through to be the station it is today. Furthermore, I had no idea how much work Jackie Kennedy did, over the course of 3 years, in order to save it from being demolished. I loved learning about how much Americans cared about Grand Central and how it started a movement to save other landmarks across the states.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Panda Pants by Jacqueline Davies, illustrated by Sydney Hanson ( 2016).

Baby Panda wants pants. When his father doesn’t understand why a Panda would need pants, baby Panda illustrates exactly why they would come in handy. However, even if on the surface this could be a book about choosing an outfit for the day, it’s underlying themes could be used to go even deeper. I could see Teachers and Parents using this book as a way to help children own who they are and who they want to be.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Airport Book by Lisa Brown (2016).

I was thrilled to see that this book features characters as diverse as an airport actually is. In calm, but informative text, this book narrates exactly the kinds of things a child might face when traveling to, entering an airport, or boarding a plane. Everything that a child might have a question about (regarding airports), is in this book.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dragon Was Terrible by Kelly DiPucchio, pictures by Greg Pizzoli (2016).

I LOVE LOVE LOVE Kelly DiPucchio. I think everything she touches turns to gold. This book is about a terrible dragon who cannot be tamed. However, turns out our dragon has a soft side for stories! Dragon’s face cracks me up as he “pretends not to listen” to the hero and friend he could be. This is for troublemakers and softies alike.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jen Pino works at the oldest and largest independent bookstore in Southern California, Vroman’s Bookstore. She’s worked there for almost 7 years and loves all things related to children’s books. Check out her blog: Confessions of a Starstruck Bookseller, where she shares what’s new at Vroman’s Bookstore, reviews books, features gift guides, and showcases booksellers!

 

 

 

Thank you, Jen, for sharing these picture book gems with us! 

 

 

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10 awesome activity books + giveaway

In anticipation of warmer weather and time off from school, I give you 10 awesome activity books for a variety of ages.

 

Art Play by Marion Deuchars. This is an incredible resource for artists 7 and up to play and learn and make art. Exploration is the name of the game.

(I’ve featured Deuchars before, with a Bob the Artist craft!)

 

 

DIY ABC by Eleonora Marton. This is for the younger set—so much DIY and drawing fun while exploring the alphabet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bigger, also by Eleonora Marton. A super inventive foldout poster kind of book that’s also a ruler. It’s totally hands on and encourages guessing and measuring all kinds of stuff. You kind of have to see this one to understand it—but it’s great!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Me: A Compendium from Wee Society. This is a visual diary that inspires thinking, drawing, and recording.

 

 

Journal Sparks by Emily Neuburger. Emily has such a knack for bringing art and ideas to life for kids. This book is no different. It’s full of activities for noticing, for creating, for contemplating.

 

(Emily stopped by last summer to make potato prints with another activity book!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rosie Revere’s Big Project Book for Bold Engineers by Andrea Beaty, illustrations by David Roberts. A perfect companion to Rosie Revere Engineer or on its own (it reprints the story of Rosie at the start). It’s a journal, sketchbook, and manual for designing and engineering projects while helping kids persevere.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Who What Where? by Olivier Tallec. This one is mind-bendingly brilliant and great for practicing observation skills.

 

 

 

 

Read All About It by Alice Bowsher. This one’s really unusual: a pamphlet that gives you everything you need to write and design your own newspaper pages! Plus, stickers. What fun (and perfect for budding journalists).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Lost House by B.B. Cronin. A sophisticated seek and find book with electric colors on every spread.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eric Carle Animal Masks. 15 animal masks to punch out and put on—yes!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m giving away three of these activity books! Read All About It, Bigger, and Rosie Revere’s Big Project Book for Bold Engineers (pictured below) are all going to one lucky winer. Simply leave a comment below to be entered to win. (North America only; ends midnight PST Saturday, June 3rd.)

 

 

 

 

 

You might also like my post from a couple of years ago on 15 Fabulously Interactive Books for Kids.