The Children's Bookshelf

Cuddly Critters for little Geniuses written by Susan and James Patterson and illustrated by Hsinping Pan is a collection of creatures from around the world, not often discussed, that will delight the curiosity of young children. The creatures are organized into three categories: Flyers such as the Sugar Glider, Royal Flycatcher and the Potoo, Swimmers such as the Parrotfish, the Puffer Fish and the Blobfish and Crawlers such as the Blue Poison Dart Frog and the Tonkin Monkey.

Many of the animals featured in this book can do fantastic things. The Potoo, for instance, looking very much like a piece of wood, can hide right in front of your eyes as it sits quietly on the branch of a tree. The Sugar Glider can float long distances through the air without ever touching the ground due to the webbing between its arms and legs.  The Pangolin, a mammal with a coat of scales, has an appetite for twenty thousand ants per day!

The illustrations are energetic, colorful and fun. The Royal Flycatcher has a plume of feathers sprouting from the top of its head! The Scarlet Macaw flies across the page all blue, gold and orange. The double spread illustration of the Snowy Owl is beautiful and commanding. Under the book jacket the book cover itself reveals a joyful gathering of all the book’s critters. And the texture and weight of the paper inside is perfect for little hands that will want to turn the pages over and over again.

Cuddly Critters for Little Geniuses written by Susan and James Patterson and illustrated by Hsinping Pan is beautifully developed and designed for ages 3-6 (JIMMY Patterson Books/Little Brown and Company, 2018).

The Night Box written by Louise Greig and illustrated by Ashling Lindsay is a poetic telling of a gentle story about that time and that place where the end of Day and the beginning of Night meet.

Max enjoys Day but when Day gets weary it is time for Night to take over. Max assists with this transformation by closing the window drapes, hearing a song from his Mom and opening his Night Box. It just takes two clicks of his special key! “Up comes the lid… Whoosh! Day slips inside as Night sweeps out. Darkness tumbles into the air. It dances and whirls around the room. It goes under the bed, under the chair-everywhere!”

Max enjoys this ritual. He knows that Night is gentle and brave and kind. But, most importantly, he knows nothing is alone in the Night.

The cadence of this beautifully-written story is reassuring and the soft internal rhymes which are gently placed here and there prepare Max for sleep.

The illustrations are full of night details such as fauns and kittens and little boys going to sleep and owls and badgers and moles just coming out to play. Most spectacular is the artist’s rendering of a white-winged swan gracefully gliding home through the star-spangled night sky.

The Night Box written lyrically by Louise Greig and illustrated with charm and care by Ashling Lindsay is a comforting bedtime story for children 4-7 years of age (Clarion Books/ Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2018).

She Persisted Around the World: 13 Women Who Changed History written by Chelsea Clinton and illustrated by Alexandra Boiger is an introduction to thirteen scientists, artists, activists and thinkers who have advanced knowledge and made the world a better place.

This celebration of women from diverse cultures includes New Zealand’s Kate Sheppard who successfully led the fight to give all women the right to vote making New Zealand the first country to do so in 1893, Wangari Maathai from East and Central Africa who was the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize for her work that was responsible for the planting of more than 50 million trees and for demanding rights for all individuals, Malala Yousafzai from Pakistan who works for girls’ rights to go to school and who is the youngest person to win the Nobel Peace Prize and Poland’s Marie Curie  who won the Nobel Prize twice, once in Physics and once in Chemistry, to name just a few.

The one-page biographies nicely bring forward each woman’s contribution along with a lasting quotation. Each biography has a visually-striking illustration. The material about J.K. Rowling from the United Kingdom features the writer’s difficulty when trying to find a publisher for her Harry Potter stories. She was turned down over and over again. However, she persisted! Today her series is available in eighty languages with more than 400 million books in print! Rowling’s quote reads, “We do not need magic to transform our world; we carry all the power we need inside ourselves already.”

She Persisted Around the World: 13 Women Who Changed History written by Chelsea Clinton and illustrated by Alexandra Boiger is compiled and designed perfectly for young readers 5-8 years of age (Philomel Books/ Penguin Young Readers Group, 2018).

The Thank You Book written by Mary Lyn Ray and illustrated by Stephanie Graegin is a lovely book full of an abundance of things to be thankful for, both big and small.  Children will experience the examples lyrically brought forward to their ears and charmingly-illustrated for their eyes.

A thank you is suggested in word and picture for an array of beautiful experiences from playtime and puddles, books and birthdays and swings and stories to family and home and the earth and the stars. One of the most touching thanks is “for when hurt or sad or not- so- good gets better.”

The illustrations include children, adults and animal characters holding hands, feeling the grass between their toes and eating together at the family dinner table. Two exceptionally-detailed illustrations depict the joys of playing in a tree house with entrance and exit of ladder and slide and marching in a parade with banners waving messages of peace, kindness and love. Birds, butterflies, ducklings, bees, dogs, cats and a hedgehog all play a role in this visual sonnet.

Humor is also a part of this book. The author suggests a thank you for “zippers that zip jackets when warm days turn cold” and the illustrator cooperates with a picture of the little white dog, having put on his glasses, helping the little stripped cat zip up a coat.

The Thank You Book written by Mary Lyn Ray and illustrated by Stephanie Graegin is a perfect gift book for children 4-7 years of age
( Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2018).

GAME CHANGERS: The Story of Venus and Serena Williams written by Lesa Cline-Ransome and illustrated by James E. Ransome is a fascinating picture book biography of two incredible athletes and sisters. The book traces how Venus, born in 1980, and Serena, born in 1981, were trained in the game of tennis by their parents each morning before the sun was up. They practiced at the East Compton Park public courts near their home. The girls stretched and did routines to build strength, speed and flexibility. The sisters hit hundreds of balls before each school day began!

Venus won all of her sixty-three junior tournaments by age ten. She played her first professional game when she was fourteen. Both girls quickly rose in the ranks, won Olympic Gold Medals and by 2002 ranked first and second in the world!

The vibrantly-colored illustrations, rendered in cut paper, pencil and acrylic paints, support the electric energy of the sisters themselves. Particularly vivid is the illustration of the sisters at the French Open in 2002 when Serena won two sets of 7-5 and 6-3 and moved out in front of Venus in the rankings. Venus ran off the court to get her camera to take a picture of her victorious sister saying, “Nothing can keep me from celebrating, when my best friend wins a match.”

GAME CHANGERS: The Story of Venus and Serena Williams written by Lesa Cline Ransome and illustrated by James E. Ransome is a striking picture book biography for ages 4-8 about family, hard work, determination and love between sisters (Paula Wiseman Books/Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2018).