Archive for Early Readers

A TurtleAndRobot Book List: 15 Picture Books featuring Birds

It is not uncommon for a child to latch onto a specific subject and then focus intensely on that one thing for a time. When such obsessions begin, the book purchaser’s job suddenly becomes easier and imbued with a new sense of fun—any book containing that subject will be an instant winner. But once the obvious choices pertaining to that topic have been exhausted, choosing books can become a painful, and fruitless, process. Buyer beware- that T.V. tie-in title that pertains to your child’s interest may be tempting but I assure you there are always higher quality choices still undiscovered.

I compiled this list of fiction picture books for people with a bird-loving child in their lives. Angelo by David Macaulay, a phenomenal and underappreciated book, is about a pigeon that brightens the life of an elderly stone worker. Bob Staake’s Bluebird spotlights an attentive bird that befriends a boy who is being bullied by his classmates. Whether the cobalt-hued hero of Bluebird is an actual bluebird or just a bird that is blue isn’t made clear, but that won’t matter to those who choose this remarkable wordless picture book. The remaining titles feature generalized, i.e. not necessarily naturalistic birds of a recognizable breed, as their main characters.

 

Inch by InchInchByInch

Ages 3-7

By Leo Lionni

32 pages

Knopf

1960

1961 Caldecott Honor Book

 

Time FliesTimeFlies

Ages 3-7

By Eric Rohman

32 pages

Crown Publishers

1994

1995 Caldecott Honor Book

 

A Home for BirdHomeforBird

Ages 3-7

By Phil C. Stead

32 pages

Roaring Brook Press

2012

 

See TurtleAndRobot’s full review here.

 

Hello, My Name is RubyRuby

Ages 3-7

By Philip C. Stead

36 pages

Roaring Brook Press

2013

 

Flap Your WingsFlapYourWings

Ages 3-8

By P.D. Eastman

48 pages

Random House

1969

(Also by P.D. Eastman, Are You My Mother? and The Best Nest)

 

The BirdwatchersTheBirdwatchers

Ages 3-8

By Simon James

32 pages

Candlewick

2002

Out of print

 

Little Red BirdLittleRedBird

Ages 3-8

By Nick Bruel

32 pages

Roaring Brook Press

2008

 

Poppy and EllaPoppy&Ella

Ages 3-9

By Jef Kaminsky

48 pages

Disney-Hyperion

2000

Out of print

 

Franny B. Kranny, There’s a Bird in Your HairFrannyBKranny

Ages 3-9

Written by Harriet Lerner and Susan Goldhor

Illustrated by Helen Oxenbury

40 pages

HarperCollins

2001

Out of print

 

13 Words13Words

Ages 4-7

Written by Lemony Snickett

Illustrated by Maira Kalman

40 pages

HarperCollins

2010

 

See TurtleAndRobot’s full review here.

 

Bluebird

Ages 4-8

By Bob Staake

40 pages

Schwartz & Wade

2013

 

A Funny Little Bird

Ages 4-8

By Jennifer Yerkes

48 pages

Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

2013

 

Feathers for LunchFeathersForLunch

Ages 4-9

By Lois Ehlert

36 pages

HMH Books for Young Readers

1996

 

AngeloAngelo

Ages 4-9

By David Macaulay

48 pages

HMH Books for Young Readers

2006

 

The Life of BirdsLifeofBirds

Ages 5 and up

By Quentin Blake

80 pages

Doubleday UK

2005

Out of print

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It’s snowing! Snuggle up and read a book, about snow!

In honor of the epic snowstorm burying my corner of the world (and pretty much all of the Eastern United States) I am reposting this list from February 9th, 2013.

 

The Mole Sisters and the Way HomeWayHome

Picture Book

Ages 2-5

By Roslyn Schwartz

32 pages

Annick Press

2003

 

The Mole Sisters are two of my favorite characters in children’s books. They’re sweet, funny, playful and irresistibly adorable. See my review of the whole series here.

The sisters are headed home when it starts to snow. And snow. And snow. Making their way through the drifts, they are diverted into a wonderful, magical cave, where they add themselves to some prehistoric cave paintings.

Not to fret, the sisters make it home safely and warm themselves by a cozy fire.

 

The Snowy Day SnowyDay-001

Picture Book

Ages 2-6

by Ezra Jack Keats

32 pages

Viking

1962

1963 Caldecott Medal Winner

 

This timeless classic is a simple story about a young boy as he plays and experiments with the snow that has covered his world overnight. Follow the boy in his trademark red suit as he experiences the wonder and possibility of freshly fallen snow.

An interesting and important note: The Snowy Day was the very first full-color picture book to feature a black child protagonist.

 

Tracks in the Snow Tracks-001

Picture Book

Ages 2-6

by Wong Herbert Yee

32 pages

Square Fish

Reprint 2007

 

A young girl heads out into the snow when she notices some mysterious tracks. As she follows the prints over a bridge, across a pond, through some woods and right back to her home she realizes that the footprints are hers from the day before. She settles in at home for some cookies and tea.

Tracks in the Snow celebrates one of the best parts about playing in the snow, coming back to a warm house for some delicious treats.

 

Over and Under the Snow OverUnderSnw

Picture Book

Ages 2-6

by Kate Messner

Illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal

44 pages

Chronicle

2011

 

While out cross-country skiing, a young girl and her father discuss the world of activity under the snow. There’s voles running through tunnels, frogs sleeping in the mud and black bears hibernating.

Simple cut paper illustrations perfectly highlight the contrast between the frozen white world above and the living earthen world below.

For those that are curious, the back of the book offers facts about all the animals and their winter activities. Interestingly, the area between the packed snow and the ground is called the subnivean zone.

 

Red Sled RedSled

Picture Book

Ages 2-6

by Lita Judge

40 pages

Atheneum

2011

 

Pure joy fills this mostly wordless picture book. The only text is reserved for the sound effects made by the happy animals and their new-found toy.

A small red sled has been left outside and various woodland creatures take turns going for rides, until the owner of the sled finally returns.

 

The Happy Day HappyDay-001

Picture Book

Ages 2-6

by Ruth Krauss

Illustrated by Marc Simont

36 pages

HarperCollins

1949

1950 Caldecott Honor Book

 

Though technically a book about spring, the book begins under the cover of snow with all the animals sleeping. Soon they are waking up and sniffing. What is it they smell?

They emerge from their burrows and start running and sniffing. They stop, and laugh, and dance! There, in the midst of all the snow and white and cold, a burst of color appears in the form of a beautiful yellow flower.

The delicious, buttery yellow of the flower is the only bit of color in an otherwise black and white picture book.

 

Bear Has a Story to TellBear Has Story to Tell - Cover

Picture Book

Ages 2-6

By Philip C. Stead

Illustrated by Erin E. Stead

32 pages

Roaring Brook Press

2012

 

This is not only one of my favorite books from 2012 but it’s also turning out to be one of my favorite picture books of all time. See my full review here.

 

Stella, Queen of the Snow stella-queen-of-the-snow

Picture Book

Ages 2-8

by Marie Louise-Gay

32 pages

Groundwood Books

2000

 

Gay’s watercolor illustrations are active, unrestrained and bursting with color.

It’s Sam’s first snowstorm! He and his big sister Stella head outside to play and explore. Sam, ever full of questions, wants to know what snowmen eat and how many snowflakes are in a snowball. Stella, the helpful big sister, always responds with clever and ever so slightly true answers.

 

Snow SnowC

Picture Book

Ages 2-8

By Uri Shulevitz

36 pages

FSG

1998

1999 Caldecott Honor Book

 

One of my favorite picture books ever! See my full review here.

 

Snow PDsnow

Picture Book

Ages 3-8

By P.D. Eastman and Roy McKie

61 pages

Random House

1962

 

“Snow is good for making tracks…And making pictures with your backs.”

A simple story, told in rhyme, joyfully relating some of the many pleasures of snow. P.D. Eastman is also the author of Go, Dog. Go!, Are You My Mother? and many other Cat in the Hat Beginner Books.

 

Is That You, Winter?IsThatYouWinter

Picture Book

Ages 3-8

By Stephen Gammel

32 pages

Silver Whistle/Harcourt Brace

1997

 

Gammel’s incredible illustrations make this a stand-out picture book. Colorful washes in every shade of blue are soon obscured by blowing white snow that seems to drip from the page.

Old Man Winter has woken up in a bad mood; he hates going to work. He jumps in his truck, flies through the sky, and spreads the ice and snow all morning long.

As he heads home for lunch, he falls into the deep snow and is rescued by a little girl.

“You make it snow for me,” the young girl tells him. Reminded that his work does have a positive influence in the world, Old Man Winter’s mood shifts and he’s happy again.

She picks him up to make sure he’s ok and readers learn that Old Man Winter is a small, wooden doll.

 

It’s Snowing ItsSnowing

Picture Book

Ages 3-8

By Olivier Dunrea

32 pages

Square Fish

2002

 

Just before publishing the magic that is Gossie (see my review here), Dunrea created It’s Snowing.

Baby is fast asleep when mama sees snowflakes falling outside. She wakes baby and bundles him up. The two go outside to see, touch, taste and smell the snow, and share some of the magic and natural beauty life has to offer.

 

The Snowman thesnowman

Picture Book

Ages 3-9

by Raymond Briggs

32 pages

Dragonfly Books

1986

 

In this wordless picture book, a young boy wakes up to a snowy day and heads outside to build a snowman. Later that night, when the boy cannot sleep, he heads outside to find the snowman has come to life. The two have a night filled with adventure.

Beautifully soft watercolor panels fill this book with the frosty feeling of snow and cold.

 

The Mitten The Mitten-001

Picture Book

Ages 3-9

by Jan Brett

32 pages

Putnam

1989

 

When a young boy asks his grandmother to knit him white mittens, she warns him that they will be hard to find if he drops them in the snow. As he goes out to play in the snow he immediately drops one of his new white mittens. Before long it becomes a cozy home to some woodland creatures seeking shelter.

 

Brave Irene brave-irene-1

Picture Book

Ages 3-9

By William Steig

32 pages

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

1986

 

Young Irene braves the wind, cold and blowing snow in this story of perseverance.

The dressmaker has finished the duchess’s gown for tonight’s ball but is not feeling well enough to deliver it. Though a big snowstorm is brewing, the dressmaker’s daughter Irene offers to bring the dress to the palace. Her mother is concerned but cannot make the trip herself and, reluctantly, allows her daughter to leave.

It’s tough going, but Irene is tougher and she completes her task despite the difficulties she faces on the way.

By the beloved author and illustrator of Sylvester and the Magic Pebble, the 1970 Caldecott Medal Winner.

 

Poppleton in Winter PoppletonInWinter-001

Early Reader

Ages 4-8

by Cynthia Rylant

Illustrated by Mark Teague

48 pages

Blue Sky Press

2001

 

In the first chapter of this early reader, Poppleton and his new friend Patrick (a bird) make a fence out of icicles.

Next, Poppleton makes a clay bust of his good friend Cherry Sue.

In the final chapter Poppleton has forgotten his own birthday, but his friends have not. They all surprise Poppleton with home-baked goodies and a nighttime sleigh ride.

See my review of Poppleton here.

 

Katy and the Big Snow Katy_and_the_Big_Snow

Picture Book

Ages 4-9

By Virgina Lee Burton

40 pages

Houghton Mifflin

1973

 

By the author and illustrator of the notable classics Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel (1939) and The Little House (1943 Caldecott Medal Winner).

Katy the red crawler tractor was a bulldozer in summer and a snowplow in winter. When a blizzard hits her hometown, all the people are depending on Katy to save the day, and she relishes the opportunity to show that she can do just that.

 

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening StoppingByWoods-001

Picture Book

Ages 4 and up

By Robert Frost

Illustrated by Susan Jeffers

32 pages

Dutton Juvenile

Originally published in 1978

Revised edition 2001

 

Susan Jeffers beautiful illustrations of frosty New England scenes perfectly complement this famous wintry poem by Robert Frost. Capturing the silent beauty of a snowy night, her art offers answers to some of the questions raised in this well-known poem.

 

For readers interested in the science of snow, a few Non-fiction options.

 

The Story of Snow: The Science of Winter’s Wonder StoryofSnow

Non-Fiction

Ages 4-10

By Mark Cassino

36 pages

Chronicle

2009

 

This excellent non-fiction picture book features illustrations as well as photographs of snowflakes and answers the questions about where snow comes from and how it’s formed.

 

Snowflakes in Photographssnowflakes-in-photographs-001

Non-fiction

By W.A. Bentley

Ages 5 and up

80 pages

Dover

2000

 

This book features over eight hundred and fifty photographs of snowflakes taken by American photographer W.A. Bentley (1865-1931) during a fifty year period.

Though it’s common knowledge now that no two snowflakes are alike, this was not the case when Bently began his ambitious project. In 1865 he attached a bellows camera to a compound microscope and photographed what he referred to as “tiny miracles of beauty.”

It is because of his work that we can know of and experience the wonder, magic and uniqueness contained in each miniature frozen sculpture.

(See also Snowflake Bentley, the 1999 Caldecott Winner, by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by Mary Azarian.)

 

The Secret Life of a Snowflake: An Up-Close Look at the Art and Science of Snowflakes

Non-FictionSecret LifeofSnowflake

Ages 8 and up

by Kenneth Libbrecht

48 pages

Voyageur Press

2010

 

The title says it all. Full of extraordinary photographs and detailed information about the cycle of a snowflake, this book is written by a scientist who studies snowflakes.

The universal love that children have for snow can be harnessed and redirected to foster a fascination for the fate of small frozen bits of water, crystals, and other scientific wonders.

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Nate the Great by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat: World’s best boy detective.

Nate the GreatNatetheGreat

Early Reader

Ages 3-9

By Marjorie Weinman Sharmat

Illustrated by Marc Simont

64 pages

1972

Delacorte Press

 

 

Marjorie Weinman Sharmat has published over one hundred and thirty books, though her Nate the Great books, with twenty-six in the series, are the most well known. Her descriptive text and direct dialogue are peppered with a dry humor. With the exception of one single word—Nate sports rubbers, instead of boots, in the rain—this forty-year old story holds timeless appeal.

This is the fifth book illustrated by Marc Simont to be reviewed in this blog. Like his art in A Tree is Nice, the spreads alternate between color and black and white. Simont uses vivid pinks and bold yellows in one spread and warm grays and lush blacks in the next. No matter the medium, Simont’s art is always expressive and energetic, pleasing and comfortable.

 

“My name is Nate the Great. I am a detective. I work alone.”

NatetheGreat1

Using classic hard-boiled detective language, Nate tells readers about his latest case: helping his friend Annie find a lost picture.

He’d just finished a breakfast of pancakes (Nate loves pancakes) when she called and enlisted his help. He donned his trench coat and Sherlock Holmes style hat and headed straight out to Annie’s, but not before leaving a note for his mother.

NatetheGreat2

When he arrived at Annie’s she was just sitting down to a pancake breakfast, so Nate joined her. They discussed the missing picture. Using bright yellow paint, Annie had painted a picture of her dog Fang the day before and left it out to dry, and then it was gone.

After breakfast, Nate searched Annie’s room. He was already sure of one thing, Annie liked yellow.

NatetheGreat3

He asked her who had seen the picture.

“My friend Rosamond has seen it, and my brother Harry. And Fang.”

Nate started with Fang. Fang was big, with big teeth. Nate watched him eat, then he watched him bury a bone. Nate had an idea that maybe Fang took the picture and buried it, but after two hours of digging in the backyard Nate and Annie only found rocks, worms, bones and ants.

NatetheGreat4

It was time for more pancakes.

“Cold pancakes are almost as good as hot pancakes.”

Nate and Annie when to Rosamond’s house next. Rosamond was dubious of Nate’s detective status so she asked him to solve a case of her own: find her missing cat, Super Hex. Rosamond had four cats, all named Hex, and a house full of cat paraphernalia. Nate sat down and Big Hex jumped onto his lap. Nate wanted to leave immediately; he stood up to go and stepped on something long and black. There was a loud meow. He’d stepped on the tail of Super Hex, who’d been hiding under the chair. The case inside a case had been solved. Nate and Annie left.

NatetheGreat5

Nate knew Rosamond did not take the picture, she clearly only liked cats. They headed back to Annie’s house to question to her brother Harry. Like Annie, Harry liked to paint; the walls of his room were covered in his art. There was painting of a red house, one of a red clown, and one of a red tree. There was also a painting of a three-headed monster but that one was orange.

“I, Nate the Great, have found your picture.”

NatetheGreat6

Annie was confused; Nate explained. All of Harry’s paintings were done in red paint, except the monster. Annie’s picture of Fang was yellow. When you mix yellow and red you get orange. Harry had painted his red, three-headed monster over Annie’s yellow picture of Fang. The case was solved.

‘“I don’t know how to thank you,” Annie said.”’

“I do,” Nate said. “Are there any pancakes left?”

 

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IndieBound / Powell’s / Amazon

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May 23rd is World Turtle Day!

I was born loving turtles. Okay, I’m not completely positive this is true but I know I cannot recall a time I didn’t love turtles. My pet red-eared slider, Earl, has lived with me for over twenty years. Here he is doing yoga.

DSC01747

My large collection of turtle figurines resides next to Earl’s tank. My collection of children’s books featuring turtles takes up a whole shelf. And what better day to share a few of those books than World Turtle Day?

 

Turtle and SnailTurtle&Snail

Beginning Reader

Ages 4-8

By Zibby Oneal

Illustrated by Margot Tomes

48 pages

Lippincott

1979

Out of Print

 

Poor Snail, he just wants a friend but “nobody wants a friend in a shell.” A shell can’t hop or fly or fit in a hole. Then Snail meets Turtle! Now they each have a friend in a shell.

Turtle&Snail1

When Snail gives Turtle a mud pie for his birthday, Fly, Ant and Bee all tell him that turtles don’t eat mud, but Snail knows what his friend likes. Snail brings the gift to his friend. Turtle loves it so much that he promptly sits on it.

Turtle&Snail2

Turtle explains that turtles don’t eat mud; they love to sit in it! But Snail is so sad that he pulls his head far into his shell and doesn’t hear how much Turtle loves his present.

Snail, convinced that Turtle thinks he is dumb, decides he must find a new friend. But Baby Robin and Fly flew off and Ant ran down a hole, so Snail decides to visit Turtle one more time. He finds Turtle stuck on his back in the tall grass. Snail gets Grasshopper, Ant, Fly and Baby Robin to help tip Turtle back onto his feet. Now they are all good friends!

Turtle&Snail3

View the Book!

 

The Great Turtle DriveTurtleDrive

Picture Book

Ages 4-8

By Steve Sanfield

Illustrated by Dirk Zimmer

32 pages

Knopf

1996

Out of Print

 

An old man, who used to be quite a cowboy, tells a story from his youth about how he made and lost a million dollars before he was old enough to vote. After a long cattle drive he liked to enjoy a meal at Frenchy’s Gourmet Eating Establishment and Pizza Parlor in Kansas City. During one such meal he had the best thing he’d ever eaten in his life, a bowl of turtle soup. Although it was quite delicious, he was shocked to see the teeny tiny bowl cost an overpriced $4.00!

He had an idea, he would head back to his home state of Texas to capture as many turtles as he could and sell them to the restaurant.

TurtleDrive1

Before long he had a herd of twenty thousand turtles. He was going to be rich! But first he had to get them to Frenchy’s. He was unable to recruit any of his fellow cowboys for the turtle drive, and was forced to go it alone.

Driving turtles was slow going, and the tired cowboy couldn’t get a moments rest; as soon as he stopped circling the herd, the turtles would start to disperse. The cowboy realized that he could flip the turtles on their back and keep them from deserting. He finally got some rest.

TurtleDrive2

Soon he realized that all the walking was rough on those little turtle feet; in lieu of turtle shoes he slipped large paper clips onto the turtles’ feet. The paper clips worked, and the turtles moved faster, but winter was coming and they needed to be protected from the cold. The cowboy paid a farmer to dig a trench so the turtles could hibernate.

When the cowboy dug up the turtles in the spring his herd had grown to forty-two thousand! Though they were moving faster, it was a long way from Texas to Kansas City and it took many years. Each winter the cowboy buried the herd, and each spring he’d dig them up to find more, until he had five hundred thousand turtles!

DSC01849

After five years had passed, they all arrived in Kansas City. Frenchy’s had closed! So, they all turned around and headed back to Texas. Good thing they knew the way!

 

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My Turtle Died Today

MyTurtleDied

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Picture Book

Ages 4-7

By Edith G. Stull

Illustrated by Mamoru Funai

28 pages

Holt, Rinehart and Winston

1964

Out of Print

 

This is a delightfully odd book with some very funny non-sequiturs. Also, the illustrations reek of 1964 and are clearly stereotypical of that era. Think: the artwork on greeting cards you’d find stored away in an old case in someone’s attic.

Our narrator, a nameless young boy, is very upset; his turtle, Boxer, is sick. The boy asks his father what to do. His father says to give Boxer some food but it doesn’t help. He asks his teacher but she says, “I’m sorry, I don’t know how to help turtles. Ask the pet shop man.”

When the boy asks the pet shop man to help Boxer, Mr. Riley says “Boxer will die.” (Don’t sugar coat it Mr. Riley!) Then Boxer dies.

The boy cries. Then he puts Boxer in a small wood box, ties a ribbon around it and buries it near the old oak tree. Then this happens:

DSC01851

“Tommy said, “Leave food for Boxer.” I said, “No, dead turtles don’t eat.” Billy said, “Leave water for Boxer.” I said, “No dead turtles don’t drink.” Tommy said, “Is Boxer in heaven?” Billy said, “My mother’s in heaven.” I said, “But now you have a new mother.” Billy said, “Yes, now I have two mothers.”

Then, on the very next page, this happens.

DSC01854

‘”What’s that?” Tommy said. There in the leaves, near the kitchen door, Patty’s babies had just been born. “There are three babies,” Billy said. “Look at Patty lick them,” Tommy said. One of the kittens made the funniest cry. It was hungry.”

While the boys play with the kittens, Tommy asks if the kittens will die too. Billy says, “All living things must die.” The narrator says the kittens will not die for a long time.

“They have to live first, before they die.”

DSC01853

“Billy said, “I’m hungry. Tommy said, “Me too. Let’s go to my house to get something to eat.” I said, “Yes, let’s go get something and we will bring something for Patty to eat. She is hungry, too.”‘

The boys headed to Tommy’s house to have lunch. The end.

No, seriously.

 

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Turtle Time: A Bedtime StoryTurtleTime

Picture book

By Sandol Stoddard

Illustrated by Lynn Munsinger

32 pages

Houghton Mifflin

1995

Out of Print

 

Lynn Munsinger has illustrated several books for children, including Tacky the Penguin. It’s probably no surprise that Turtle Time is my favorite of her books; it’s also one of my favorite turtle books. The title refers to the act of a turtle pulling in his head and limbs—going inside himself—for some quiet time; it’s also something our young narrator, an exuberant red-haired girl, likes to do. She crawls into her bed, snuggles deep under the covers and enjoys a little peace.

In a bouncy, sing-song-y rhyme, the young girl—wearing the most adorable red shoes—tells the story of finding a small turtle egg that was in the process of hatching. Once the baby turtle fully emerged, the joyous girl named him Fred and promised to bring him home to keep her company. She imagines all the wonderful activities they will share!

TurtleTime1

But when she picked him up, he retracted into his mobile home. The persistent miss brings Fred home anyway. Eventually, he peeks out from his shell and has this to say;

DSC01855 

“And when I hold him in my hand, we close our eyes and understand. Our little song, our little rhyme, and when I need a nap I climb, into my bed for turtle time, turtle time.

TurtleTime2 

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The Flying Tortoise: An Igbo TaleFlyingTortoise

Picture Book

Retold by Tololwa M. Mollel

Illustrated by Barbara Spurll

32 pages

Clarion Books

1994

 

Tololwa M. Mollel, a Maasai from Arusha, Tanzania, retells this Nigerian myth of how the tortoise got his shell. Barbara Spurll’s vibrantly colored illustrations are full of emotion and character.

 

Mbeku was a vain and selfish tortoise. He was extremely proud of his smooth and shiny shell. Because he was so magnificent, he believed he deserved more food than any other creature in the forest. Mbeku had an insatiable appetite and was always eager to eat.

FlyingTortoise1

One day he came upon a group of birds celebrating; the king of Skyland had invited the Earth-dwellers to a feast! Mbeku yearned to attend even though he did not have the means to travel to Skyland. He convinced each of the birds to give him a feather so that his (only) friend Ngwele could fashion a set of wings so that he could fly.

When the birds and Mbeku arrived in Skyland, Mbeku tricked the birds and consumed the entire feast himself. The angry birds pounced on the trickster and tore apart his wings. Now he had no way of getting home! Mbeku put on a great show of apologizing and pleading for forgiveness until the birds eventually took pity on him.

FlyingTortoise2

Mbeku decided he would have to jump from Skyland and tells the birds to ask Ngwele to build a giant soft pile so he could land softly. The birds agreed and flew back to Earth. But one small swallow, still in a nearby bush, overheard Mbeku mocking the silly birds for trusting him yet again. The swallow immediately flew off to tell the others. Tired of playing the fools, the birds decided to teach the deceiving tortoise a lesson—instead of a soft pile, they ask Ngwele to build a pile of the hardest things she can find.

Mbeku, unaware that his duplicitous behavior has been discovered, sees the readied pile from Skyland and jumps down to earth. Upon landing, his shell scattered in a million pieces. Ngwele gathered up every single piece and worked all through the rainy season patching Mbeku’s shell. The new patchwork shield looks just like the shell we know turtles to carry today. It’s not nearly beautiful enough for the ungrateful reptile.

FlyingTortoise3

Despite not wanting to be seen in his hideous shell, the tortoise went out for a walk. When he heard birds nearby, he “drew himself into his checkered shell and lay as still as a stone.” The birds, unaware that their old nemesis is nearby, chattered and laughed about having finally outsmarted Mbeku. They laughed so hard that they didn’t even notice the large rock that they were resting on was chuckling too.

 

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Newt is a superb book full of wit and charm.

NewtNewtCover

Early reader

Ages 4-7

By Matt Novak

48 pages

HaperCollins Publishers

1996

 

 

Matt Novak has written several books for children, picture books and early readers. He’s also been a puppeteer, a teacher and a Disney artist—he worked on Rescuers Down Under and Beauty and the Beast—so he’s had a lot of experience with reaching children.

Everything about Newt is utterly charming. The pleasingly warm art glows with life. The straightforward text is heartening and funny. And Newt himself is an irresistible salamander in a sporty jersey and a jaunt in his step. What’s not to love?

 

Newt is out walking and enjoying a beautiful day.

Newt1

‘“What a perfect day.” Newt said. “I wish I could keep it for always.”’

When he encounters a “perfect” red flower he decides to dig it up and take it home and keep it for always. But once home he realizes he does not have a pot to plant it in. Newt goes in search of a pot and meets a plump mouse carrying a nutshell, a nutshell that looks like a perfect flowerpot.

Newt2

The mouse offers to give Newt the nutshell. First the mouse needs to water his flower, but where his flower should be there is just a hole in the ground! Newt does not say anything. He goes home and plants the flower, and it does not look so perfect anymore.

‘”It looks different.” He said.”’

When Newt and the flower arrive back at the hole, the mouse was still there and they planted the flower together. It was a perfect day.

Newt3

 

“One morning Newt found a strange, fuzzy bug on his doorstep.”

Newt4

The bug—a round, fuzzy creature with two sets of ten eyes and eight legs that run straight across its body—is pathetically adorable. Newt offers him some food but insists the bug must go home after eating. The bug ate, but he did not go home.

After meeting a bird (sporting a Hawaiian shirt) accompanied by a beautiful pet butterfly, Newt decides to try to spruce up his bug.

Newt5

Next Newt meets a joyous rabbit with a pet cricket, and the cricket can play music! Newt sets out to see if his bug has any talents.

Newt6

He doesn’t.

Next Newt meets a contended mole riding on a big ant, so he tries to ride the bug but the bug does not move.

‘“You are not beautiful, talented or strong.” Newt said. “What kind of bug are you?”’

Then the soft bug jumped into Newt’s arms and made a nice buzzing sound and Newt held the bug.

Newt7

“You are my bug, and that is enough.”

Newt8

It was night, but Newt was awake. He peered at the moon through a gap in his curtains.

‘“You look scared.” Newt said.”’

Newt shares with the moon some of the things he does when he feels scared. After describing each comforting activity Newt opens the curtains a bit more; the moon rises in the sky.

Newt9

He assures the moon that shadows in the room are not as scary as they seem and opens his curtains wide; the moon is high above the house.

Newt10

Newt is superb book full of wit and charm, and one worth sharing with the whole family.

 

Buy the book!

IndieBound / Powell’s / Amazon

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A Friend for Dragon: A charming, funny, and sometimes sad story of friendship.

A Friend for DragonDragonCover

Early Reader

Ages 4-9

By Dav Pilkey

48 pages

Orchard Books

1991

 

 

Dav Pilkey is the author and illustrator of the wildly popular Captain Underpants series. He’s created a number of wonderful books, many of which I truly love; I will forever be his fan for creating the five books in the Dragon series.  A Friend for Dragon was the first to be published. The other four titles are Dragon’s Fat Cat, Dragon Gets By, Dragon’s Halloween, and Dragon’s Merry Christmas. They are all wonderful. Dragon is sweet, kind and irresistibly adorable.

Pilkey’s art is bright and happy; crammed with color and outlined with thick black crayon, it is immensely appealing. He occasionally uses patterns in the background creating texture and evoking thoughts of Van Gogh’s The Starry Night.

 

A Friend for Dragon is a charming, funny and sometimes sad story of friendship. Told in five chapters, this book could be broken up over a few nights or read through in one sitting.

Dragon is having trouble finding a friend; Crocodile is too grouchy, Hippo is too tired and Squirrel is too busy.

Dragon1

Dragon sits down under a tree. When an apple falls on his head he’s tricked by a passing snake into thinking he’s found his friend.

Dragon2

Dragon, happy to have a new friend, brings the apple home. They have a great time together! Dragon builds a fire and tells the apple scary stories; the apple is a very good listener.

Dragon3

But the next morning when Dragon tries to wake the apple for breakfast, the apple doesn’t respond.

Dragon4

Dragon takes him to the doctor. While in the waiting room, Dragon asks a hungry-looking walrus to watch over his friend while he gets a drink of water. Dragon returns to a vastly different apple; no longer red and shiny, it is now white and wet and skinny. And he still will not respond to Dragon!

Dragon5

Dragon rushes the apple home. The core of his former friend soon turns brown and mushy and Dragon must bury his beloved friend. Dragon is very sad and really misses the apple.

Dragon6

Many months have passed and Dragon still misses his friend. He is less sad now but still lonely. Dragon sits down under a tree in his backyard and wishes for a friend. Once again, Dragon is hit in the head by a falling apple.

Dragon7

A Friend for Dragon is a beautiful and amusing story of friendship, loss and new beginnings.

 

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TurtleAndRobot’s Top 20 (plus one) Books about Snow

The Mole Sisters and the Way HomeWayHome

Picture Book

Ages 2-5

By Roslyn Schwartz

32 pages

Annick Press

2003

 

The Mole Sisters are two of my favorite characters in children’s books. They’re sweet, funny, playful and irresistibly adorable. See my review of the whole series here.

The sisters are headed home when it starts to snow. And snow. And snow. Making their way through the drifts, they are diverted into a wonderful, magical cave, where they add themselves to some prehistoric cave paintings.

Not to fret, the sisters make it home safely and warm themselves by a cozy fire.

 

The Snowy Day SnowyDay-001

Picture Book

Ages 2-6

by Ezra Jack Keats

32 pages

Viking

1962

1963 Caldecott Medal Winner

 

This timeless classic is a simple story about a young boy as he plays and experiments with the snow that has covered his world overnight. Follow the boy in his trademark red suit as he experiences the wonder and possibility of freshly fallen snow.

An interesting and important note: The Snowy Day was the very first full-color picture book to feature a black child protagonist.

 

Tracks in the Snow Tracks-001

Picture Book

Ages 2-6

by Wong Herbert Yee

32 pages

Square Fish

Reprint 2007

 

A young girl heads out into the snow when she notices some mysterious tracks. As she follows the prints over a bridge, across a pond, through some woods and right back to her home she realizes that the footprints are hers from the day before. She settles in at home for some cookies and tea.

Tracks in the Snow celebrates one of the best parts about playing in the snow, coming back to a warm house for some delicious treats.

 

Over and Under the Snow OverUnderSnw

Picture Book

Ages 2-6

by Kate Messner

Illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal

44 pages

Chronicle

2011

 

While out cross-country skiing, a young girl and her father discuss the world of activity under the snow. There’s voles running through tunnels, frogs sleeping in the mud and black bears hibernating.

Simple cut paper illustrations perfectly highlight the contrast between the frozen white world above and the living earthen world below.

For those that are curious, the back of the book offers facts about all the animals and their winter activities. Interestingly, the area between the packed snow and the ground is called the subnivean zone.

 

Red Sled RedSled

Picture Book

Ages 2-6

by Lita Judge

40 pages

Atheneum

2011

 

Pure joy fills this mostly wordless picture book. The only text is reserved for the sound effects made by the happy animals and their new-found toy.

A small red sled has been left outside and various woodland creatures take turns going for rides, until the owner of the sled finally returns.

 

The Happy Day HappyDay-001

Picture Book

Ages 2-6

by Ruth Krauss

Illustrated by Marc Simont

36 pages

HarperCollins

1949

1950 Caldecott Honor Book

 

Though technically a book about spring, the book begins under the cover of snow with all the animals sleeping. Soon they are waking up and sniffing. What is it they smell?

They emerge from their burrows and start running and sniffing. They stop, and laugh, and dance! There, in the midst of all the snow and white and cold, a burst of color appears in the form of a beautiful yellow flower.

The delicious, buttery yellow of the flower is the only bit of color in an otherwise black and white picture book.

 

Bear Has a Story to TellBear Has Story to Tell - Cover

Picture Book

Ages 2-6

By Philip C. Stead

Illustrated by Erin E. Stead

32 pages

Roaring Brook Press

2012

 

This is not only one of my favorite books from 2012 but it’s also turning out to be one of my favorite picture books of all time. See my full review here.

 

Stella, Queen of the Snow stella-queen-of-the-snow

Picture Book

Ages 2-8

by Marie Louise-Gay

32 pages

Groundwood Books

2000

Gay’s watercolor illustrations are active, unrestrained and bursting with color.

 

It’s Sam’s first snowstorm! He and his big sister Stella head outside to play and explore. Sam, ever full of questions, wants to know what snowmen eat and how many snowflakes are in a snowball. Stella, the helpful big sister, always responds with clever and ever so slightly true answers.

 

Snow SnowC

Picture Book

Ages 2-8

By Uri Shulevitz

36 pages

FSG

1998

1999 Caldecott Honor Book

 

One of my favorite picture books ever! See my full review here.

 

Snow PDsnow

Picture Book

Ages 3-8

By P.D. Eastman and Roy McKie

61 pages

Random House

1962

“Snow is good for making tracks…And making pictures with your backs.”

 

A simple story, told in rhyme, joyfully relating some of the many pleasures of snow. P.D. Eastman is also the author of Go, Dog. Go!, Are You My Mother? and many other Cat in the Hat Beginner Books.

 

Is That You, Winter?IsThatYouWinter

Picture Book

Ages 3-8

By Stephen Gammel

32 pages

Silver Whistle/Harcourt Brace

1997

 

Gammel’s incredible illustrations make this a stand-out picture book. Colorful washes in every shade of blue are soon obscured by blowing white snow that seems to drip from the page.

Old Man Winter has woken up in a bad mood; he hates going to work. He jumps in his truck, flies through the sky, and spreads the ice and snow all morning long.

As he heads home for lunch, he falls into the deep snow and is rescued by a little girl.

“You make it snow for me,” the young girl tells him. Reminded that his work does have a positive influence in the world, Old Man Winter’s mood shifts and he’s happy again.

She picks him up to make sure he’s ok and readers learn that Old Man Winter is a small, wooden doll.

 

It’s Snowing ItsSnowing

Picture Book

Ages 3-8

By Olivier Dunrea

32 pages

Square Fish

2002

 

Just before publishing the magic that is Gossie (see my review here), Dunrea created It’s Snowing.

Baby is fast asleep when mama sees snowflakes falling outside. She wakes baby and bundles him up. The two go outside to see, touch, taste and smell the snow, and share some of the magic and natural beauty life has to offer.

 

The Snowman thesnowman

Picture Book

Ages 3-9

by Raymond Briggs

32 pages

Dragonfly Books

1986

 

In this wordless picture book, a young boy wakes up to a snowy day and heads outside to build a snowman. Later that night, when the boy cannot sleep, he heads outside to find the snowman has come to life. The two have a night filled with adventure.

Beautifully soft watercolor panels fill this book with the frosty feeling of snow and cold.

 

The Mitten The Mitten-001

Picture Book

Ages 3-9

by Jan Brett

32 pages

Putnam

1989

 

When a young boy asks his grandmother to knit him white mittens, she warns him that they will be hard to find if he drops them in the snow. As he goes out to play in the snow he immediately drops one of his new white mittens. Before long it becomes a cozy home to some woodland creatures seeking shelter.

 

Brave Irene brave-irene-1

Picture Book

Ages 3-9

By William Steig

32 pages

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

1986

 

Young Irene braves the wind, cold and blowing snow in this story of perseverance.

The dressmaker has finished the duchess’s gown for tonight’s ball but is not feeling well enough to deliver it. Though a big snowstorm is brewing, the dressmaker’s daughter Irene offers to bring the dress to the palace. Her mother is concerned but cannot make the trip herself and, reluctantly, allows her daughter to leave.

It’s tough going, but Irene is tougher and she completes her task despite the difficulties she faces on the way.

By the beloved author and illustrator of Sylvester and the Magic Pebble, the 1970 Caldecott Medal Winner.

 

Poppleton in Winter PoppletonInWinter-001

Early Reader

Ages 4-8

by Cynthia Rylant

Illustrated by Mark Teague

48 pages

Blue Sky Press

2001

 

In the first chapter of this early reader, Poppleton and his new friend Patrick (a bird) make a fence out of icicles.

Next, Poppleton makes a clay bust of his good friend Cherry Sue.

In the final chapter Poppleton has forgotten his own birthday, but his friends have not. They all surprise Poppleton with home-baked goodies and a nighttime sleigh ride.

See my review of Poppleton here.

 

Katy and the Big Snow Katy_and_the_Big_Snow

Picture Book

Ages 4-9

By Virgina Lee Burton

40 pages

Houghton Mifflin

1973

 

By the author and illustrator of the notable classics Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel (1939) and The Little House (1943 Caldecott Medal Winner).

Katy the red crawler tractor was a bulldozer in summer and a snowplow in winter. When a blizzard hits her hometown, all the people are depending on Katy to save the day, and she relishes the opportunity to show that she can do just that.

 

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening StoppingByWoods-001

Picture Book

Ages 4 and up

By Robert Frost

Illustrated by Susan Jeffers

32 pages

Dutton Juvenile

Originally published in 1978

Revised edition 2001

 

Susan Jeffers beautiful illustrations of frosty New England scenes perfectly complement this famous wintry poem by Robert Frost. Capturing the silent beauty of a snowy night, her art offers answers to some of the questions raised in this well-known poem.

 

For readers interested in the science of snow, a few Non-fiction options.

 

The Story of Snow: The Science of Winter’s Wonder StoryofSnow

Non-Fiction

Ages 4-10

By Mark Cassino

36 pages

Chronicle

2009

 

This excellent non-fiction picture book features illustrations as well as photographs of snowflakes and answers the questions about where snow comes from and how it’s formed.

 

Snowflakes in Photographssnowflakes-in-photographs-001

Non-fiction

By W.A. Bentley

Ages 5 and up

80 pages

Dover

2000

 

This book features over eight hundred and fifty photographs of snowflakes taken by American photographer W.A. Bentley (1865-1931) during a fifty year period.

Though it’s common knowledge now that no two snowflakes are alike, this was not the case when Bently began his ambitious project. In 1865 he attached a bellows camera to a compound microscope and photographed what he referred to as “tiny miracles of beauty.”

It is because of his work that we can know of and experience the wonder, magic and uniqueness contained in each miniature frozen sculpture.

(See also Snowflake Bentley, the 1999 Caldecott Winner, by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by Mary Azarian.)

 

The Secret Life of a Snowflake: An Up-Close Look at the Art and Science of Snowflakes

Non-FictionSecret LifeofSnowflake

Ages 8 and up

by Kenneth Libbrecht

48 pages

Voyageur Press

2010

 

The title says it all. Full of extraordinary photographs and detailed information about the cycle of a snowflake, this book is written by a scientist who studies snowflakes.

The universal love that children have for snow can be harnessed and redirected to foster a fascination for the fate of small frozen bits of water, crystals, and other scientific wonders.

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