ABE LINCOLN: THE BOY WHO LOVED BOOKS by Kay Winters, illustrated by Nancy Carpenter (Simon & Schuster, 2003). From birth to presidency, the life of honest Abe is relayed in a series of charming and affecting vignettes. Carpenter's folksy illustrations perfectly capture the era and Abe's personality. CYALR HIGHEST RECOMMENDATION for text and art. Ages 5-up.
ALTOONA BABOONA by Janie Bynum (Harcourt, 1999). This book is more fun than a barrel-a baboon-as. The rhyme flows as Altoona takes her balloon-a to the skies. You'll be humming this story long after you've put it down and picked it up again. Don't miss the sequel, ALTOONA UP NORTH. Ages 4-up.
AMAZING FACES, anthology by Lee Bennett Hopkins, illustrated by Chris Soentpiet (Lee & Low, 2010). In this lovely picture book anthology, Hopkins brings together sixteen poets and poems about brief flashes of time and instantaneous emotions resulting therefrom. Soentpiet's elegant illustrations evoke the feelings of the poems via environmental detail and the expressions on the people's faces. The collection includes poems by Rebecca Kai Dotlich, Kam Mak, Carole Boston Weatherford, Jane Medina, Nikki Grimes, Jude Mandell, Jane Yolen, Tom Robert Shields, Pat Mora, Janet S. Wong, Lee Bennett Hopkins, Prince Redcloud, Mary E. Cronin, Joseph Bruchac, J. Patrick Lewis, and Langston Hughes. Ages 4-up. Publisher copy. Recommendation by Greg Leitich Smith.
AN EGG IS QUIET by Dianna Hutts Aston, illustrated by Sylvia Long (Chronicle, 2006). Lyrical, informative language combine with magnificent illustrations to introduce children of all ages to the world of eggs. Perfect for lap reading and classroom discussions. A must-buy for school and public libraries. Arguably the best concept book in print. Ages 4-up. HIGHEST RECOMMENDATION. Read The Story Behind The Story from Dianna Hutts Aston and Sylvia Long.
AT THE BEACH by Huy Voun Lee (Holt, 1994). Xiao Ming learns to write Chinese (Mandarin) by writing in the sand and comparing the characters to various sights around her. An American Bookseller Pick of the Lists. Ages 4-up.
BABY BORN by Anastasia Suen, illustrated by Chih-Wei Chang (Lee & Low, 1999). Sparse, poetic, and sweet, this interactive, lift-the-flap book is a perfect choice for littlest readers and a wonderful gift for new parents and expectant "big" brothers and sisters. All ages.
THE BABY GOES BEEP by Rebecca O'Connell, illustrated by Ken Wilson-Max (Roaring Brook Press, 2003). Big, fun, simple and colorful drawings by Wilson-Max accompany this super, basic text documenting Baby's daily activities through the sounds those activities make. This text/story may help little ones link the sound of "LALALALA" to the word symbol LALALALA. Ages 1-up. Recommendation by Lindsey Lane.
BAYOU LULLABY by Kathi Appelt, pictures by Neil Waldman (Morrow, 1995). In a strong Cajun voice, the author sings listeners to sleep on the banks of the bayou. Ages 3-up. Read The Story Behind The Story from Kathi Appelt.
BENTLY & EGG by William Joyce (HarperCollins, 1992). Bently the frog proves himself a first-rate artist and an even better baby-sitter. Or duckling sitter, that is. At once funny and touching; a great read-aloud. Beautifully illustrated. Ages 4-up.
BIRD TALK: WHAT BIRDS ARE SAYING AND WHY by Lita Judge (Flash Point/Roaring Brook, 2012). This elegant and amply illustrated forty-eight page picture book presents an introduction to the myriad ways in which birds (avian dinosaurs) communicate: vocalizing, strutting, fighting, etc. Drawings are realistic and the text spare yet informative. An afterword provides additional context on birds both familiar and unfamiliar. Ages 6-up. Recommendation by Greg Leitich Smith.
BLACKBERRY BOOTIES by Tricia Gardella, illustrated by Glo Coalson (Orchard, 2000). It's blackberry season, and Mikki Jo is determined to create a present for her baby cousin. A charming family story that would make a good gift itself! Ages 4-up.
BLOCKHEAD: THE LIFE OF FIBONACCI by Joseph D'Agnese, illustrated by John O'Brien (Henry Holt, 2010). This fun and highly-fictionalized account of the life Fibonacci ranges from a childhood in which he had difficulties in school through an adulthood of travels and curiosity. Both text and pictures are lively and provide an entertaining tale of how Fibonacci (may have) discovered the sequence that bears his name. Ages 6-up. Publisher copy. Recommendation by Greg Leitich Smith.
A BOOK ABOUT COLOR by Mark Gonyea (Henry Holt, 2010). Beginning with illustrations of six "houses," graphic artist Mark Gonyea introduces readers to the primary and secondary colors, their uses and "feel," and their properties. A BOOK ABOUT COLOR is elegantly simple, straightforward, bright, informative, and thoroughly enjoyable. Ages 8-up. Publisher copy. Recommendation by Greg Leitich Smith.
BONE DOG by Eric Rohmann (Roaring Brook, 2011)(ages 4+). Ella, a dog, makes a promise to Gus, a boy, to be with him always. So on Halloween, when Gus finds himself attacked by a bunch of skeletons, Ella, now a skeleton dog, appears and brings with her a pack of friends... With whimsical illustrations and tall-tale vibe, BONE DOG provides a perfect and satisfying treat for Halloween. Ages 4-up. Recommendation by Greg Leitich Smith.
BORN TO BE GIANTS: HOW BABY DINOSAURS GREW TO RULE THE WORLD by Lita Judge (Roaring Brook/FlashPoint, 2010), is a 48-page picture book exploring how dinosaurs started out so small and grew so big. Text is straightforward and clear, and the illustrations are rich, detailed, and, occasionally, cute, but not cutesy (because all baby animals are cute, including dinosaurs. Really.). Of particular interest are the juxtapositions of the prehistoric creatures with contemporary "counterparts," illustrating conjectured behavior. An excellent introduction to the science of juvenile dinosaurs. Publisher copy. Recommendation by Greg Leitich Smith.
THE BUG CEMETERY by Frances Hill, illustrated by Vera Rosenberry (Holt, 2002). A boy and his sister bury a ladybug with honors, and soon other neighborhood kids bring deceased insects to the bug cemetery, too. But after the more heartfelt loss of a pet, it becomes clear that "funerals aren't any fun when they're for someone you love." With a final, hopeful nod to the circle of life, this very gentle book is an age-appropriate introduction to death that insightfully captures young children's related fascination as well as their more tender emotions and questions. Frances Hill is an Austin, TX author, and this is her first book. Ages 4-up.
BUDDY: THE STORY OF BUDDY HOLLY by Anne Bustard, illustrated by Kurt Cyrus (Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman, 2005). A picture book biography of a music icon whose persistence led him to change rock 'n roll forever. Ages 4-up. Read The Story Behind The Story from Anne Bustard.
A CASTLE ON VIOLA STREET by Dyanne DiSalvo (HarperCollins, 2001). This hopeful picture book tells the story of Andy, whose family of five lives in a small, run-down apartment. One day, he notices a flier that says "You Too Can Own A Home," and then a dream comes true with the help of community action. Includes a forward "About Housing Organizations" by Millard Fuller, Founder and President of Habitat for Humanity. Ages 4-up.
CHANCE by Dian Curtis Regan, illustrated by Dee Huxley (Philomel, 2003). Feeling right cranky 'bout gooky mush, guitar pluckin', and the slobbery dog, newborn Chance packs up his blankey, horsey, rattle and LEAVES. Chance is off on a series of wild adventures. This original, laugh-out-loud funny story is two parts tall tale and the rest all heart. A celebration of leaving home to find it, brought to fold by Regan's crackling grand prose and Huxley action and emotion-packed illustrations. HIGHEST RECOMMENDATION. Ages 4-up.
CHICKEN SOUP BY HEART by Esther Hershenhorn, illustrated by Roseanne Litzinger (Simon & Schuster, 2002). When Rudie Dinkins hears that his after-school sitter, Mrs. Gittel, has the flu, he knows that cooking up some chicken soup is just the thing to do. This warm picture book, with its emphasis on friendship and reciprocity, is guaranteed to make any reader feel absolutely wonderful. (Recipes included). Ages 4-up.
CHOPSTICKS by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, illustrated by Scott Magoon (Hyperion, 2012). The Chopsticks are inseparable, working together like a well (olive) oiled machine. Until, one day, Chopstick A breaks a leg and Chopstick B has to make his way on his own. But how will Chopstick B get along without his partner? CHOPSTICKS is fun and funny and colorful, and a great exploration of standing on one's own. In sum, CHOPSTICKS is perhaps the finest coming-of-age story involving kitchen utensils yet written. Ages 4-up. Recommendation by Greg Leitich Smith.
CLICK, CLACK, MOO: COWS THAT TYPE by Doreen Cronin, illustrated by Betsy Lewin (Simon & Schuster, 2000). Look out Farmer Brown! The cows have a typewriter and some serious political savvy. They're going on strike if you don't meet their typewritten demands. The art is darling, and it's a great story about peaceful protests. As appealing to grown-ups as kids. Ages 4-up.
COME ON, RAIN by Karen Hesse, illustrated by Jon J. Muth (Scholastic, 1999). Tess hopes for and celebrates the rain that offers relief from the heat. Exceedingly poetic, joyful illustrations. One of the best picture books of 1999. Ages 4-up.
COWBOY DREAMS by Kathi Appelt, illustrated by Barry Root (HarperCollins, 1999). Put your little cowpokes to bed with this lyrical picture book, and let their eyes begin to glaze over the dreamy paintings. A poetic path to a good night's sleep for those whose dreams take them riding on the range. Ages 3-up. Read The Story Behind The Story from Kathi Appelt.
DAISY AND THE DOLL by Michael Medearis and Angela Shelf Medearis, paintings by Larry Johnson (Vermont Folklife Center, 2000). When does a child notice that her skin is a different color from her classmates? How does she feel when she notices the difference? Set in Vermont in the late 1800's, the husband wife team of Angela and Michael Medearis tell the story of Daisy who grapples with these questions and answers with her heart. At the end of the book, the authors have included ideas for writing poetry so children can practice their own poetry from the heart. Ages 6-up. Recommendation by Lindsey Lane.
DAWDLE DUCKLING by Toni Buzzeo, illustrated by Margaret Spengler (Dial, 2003). Oh, that fourth little duckling! He plays and preens and nibbles flies, but he's not quick to obey when Mama Duck tells him to catch up. What happens across the bay is a story for every young reader and his Mama Duck, too. Ages 2-up. Read The Story Behind The Story from Toni Buzzeo.
DEAR FISH by Chris Gall (Little Brown, 2006). When Peter Alan writes inviting the creatures of the sea to visit, they take him up on it. Pufferfish float, a shark bucks a bullrider--talk about a whale of a tale! An imaginative juxtaposition of land and sea. Endpapers include a guide to the featured fishies. Ages 4-up.
DEAR JUNO by Soyung Pak, illustrated by Susan Kathleen Hartung (Viking, 1999). Juno can't wait to read the letter from his Korean grandmother, but he doesn't know how to translate the Korean words. From little clues tucked inside the letter, Juno knows some of Grandmother's news anyway. When it's time to write her back, he must figure out how to communicate -- even though she doesn't read English. This is the first picture book for both the author and the illustrator. Ages 4-up.
DEGAS AND THE LITTLE DANCER by Laurence Anholt (Barron's, 1996). Marie will be forever remembered as a dancer because she modeled for one of the history's greatest artists. Ages 4-up.
THE DINOSAURS OF WATERHOUSE HAWKINS by Barbara Kerley, illustrated by Brian Selznick (Scholastic, 2001). This inspiring picture book biography about Victorian English artist Hawkins chronicles his efforts to bring dinosaurs to life at a time when no one knew what they looked like. Hawkins larger-than-life personality rivaled that of his subjects, which in themselves have inspired awe for generations. Selznick's art, much of which is based on Hawkin's sketches, is a perfect compliment to Kerley's text. Ages 4-up.
THE DOG WHO HAD KITTENS by Polly Robertus, illustrated by Janet Stevens (Holiday House, 1991). Basset hound Baxter cares for Eloise's kittens and then wins her friendship. Ages 5-up.
DONA FLOR: A TALL TALE ABOUT A GIANT WOMAN WITH A GREAT BIG HEART by Pat Mora, illustrated by Raul Colon (Knopf, 2005). In this heartwarming and humorous original tall tale, Doña Flor is a giant woman living in a tiny southwestern village. She shows great kindness to her neighbors, especially children, and loves to read. One day, an enormous roar echoes, frightening all those Doña Flor loves. Whatever will she do? Ages 4-up. More on this title from Cynsations.
DON'T NEED FRIENDS by Carolyn Crimi, illustrated by Lynn Munsinger (Doubleday, 1999). Poor grouchy Rat. When Possum moves to another junkyard, Rat decides he doesn't need friends. Not even Dog, an equally grouchy soul, who claims not to need him either. Will this two cankerous soul's find companionship after all? Ages 4-up.
DOWN CUT SHIN CREEK: PACK HORSE LIBRARIANS OF KENTUCKY by Kathi Appelt and Jeanne Cannella Schmitzer (Holt, 2001). A fascinating and inspirational look at the courageous and determined women who brought books to the rural areas of Kentucky during the Great Depression. This foray into nonfiction by Schmitzer and super-versatile Appelt is a must-read not only for librarians and their fans but also history buffs and particularly those who enjoy books with strong, real-life girls and women. Ages 9-up. Read The Story Behind The Story from Kathi Appelt.
AT THE EDGE OF THE WOODS: A COUNTING BOOK by Cynthia Cotten, illustrated by Reg Cartwright (Henry Holt, 2002). Festive, foresty counting book of animals, birds, and insects at the edge of the deep, dark woods ends with an amusing twist. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for preschool though second grade. Ages 2-up.
ESCAPING TO AMERICA by Rosalyn Schanzer (HarperCollins, 2000). This book introduces young readers to the author's grandparents and their children as they journey from their native Poland to the United States, facing oppression, violence, anti-semitism, illness, and uncertainty along the way. The text is clean, clear, and immediate--as though Schanzer speaks to readers gathered at her knee. The illustrations simultaneously convey the period and yet, because of the design, almost offer the feel of a film. Ages 8-up.
EXTREME ANIMALS: THE TOUGHEST CREATURES ON EARTH by Nicola Davies, illustrated by Neal Layton (Candlewick, 2006). Humans are wimps, we're told. We "can't stand" cold, heat, live without food or water, and we have to have air to survive. But a handful of other earth creatures are pros at handling all of the above. Take "frog popsicles" for example. As the author points out, "usually, being frozen solid is very, very bad for living things." But wood frogs survive by making the ice grow between all their key body parts. Conversational, funny, informative, and fascinating with humorous, clever illustrations. Ages 8-up.
A FAMILY FOR OLD MILL FARM by Shutta Crum, illustrated by Niki Daly (Clarion, 2007). As the human family seeks a new, larger home with the realtor, so do the animals with theirs (a raccoon). A wonderfully structured story, recommended to readers and to writers for study. Ages 4-up. Read The Story Behind The Story from Shutta Crum.
FANNIE IN THE KITCHEN by Deborah Hopkinson, illustrated by Nancy Carpenter (Atheneum, 2001). Marcia's not the least bit pleased when Mama hires a mother's helper who isn't Marcia herself. After all, Marcia does such a good job making the floor-to-ceiling candles and polishing the oil lamps (despite breaking one or two). But Fannie's cooking and friendship soon win her over. A humorous look at Fannie Merritt Farmer, who is sometimes credited with having invented the modern recipe. Carpenter's delightful illustrations are right-on-mark for this historical tale. Ages 4-up. Read The Story Behind The Story from Deborah Hopkinson.
FEEDING THE SHEEP by Leda Schubert, illustrated by Andrea U'Ren (FSG, 2010). While her mother tends to the sheep and the wool and the spinning and the knitting (and more), the little girl asks, "What are you doing?" At each stage, the mother tells of, and the illustrations show, a step in the process of turning wool into a sweater. FEEDING THE SHEEP is an elegant tale of mother-daughter bonding and participatory education. Drawings are bright and cheerful, and together with the text, provide a heartwarming introduction to sheep husbandry and the work that goes behind the work that goes into a sweater. Ages 3-up. Publisher copy. Recommendation by Greg Leitich Smith.
THE FOOT-STOMPING ADVENTURES OF CLEMENTINE SWEET by Kitty Griffin and Kathy Combs, illustrated by Mike Wohnoutka (Clarion, 2004). Set in the Texas Hill Country, this tall tale is a winner! Ages 4-up.
FOR THE BIRDS: THE LIFE OF ROGER TORY PETERSON by Peggy Thomas, illustrated by Laura Jacques (Calkins Creek/Boyds Mills Press, 2011). As a child, Roger Tory Peterson (1908-1996) was considered a bit of an odd bird. He'd spend all his time exploring the woods in his small town, bringing home nests and wildflowers and butterflies and moths. Early on, though, he became enamored of birds, and studying them and drawing them became his life's work. Ultimately, he would become one of world's foremost ornithologists, and in 1934 would publish the first of the famous Peterson Field Guides. FOR THE BIRDS provides a thoroughly fun and evocative introduction to the life and work of one of the premier naturalists of the 20th Century. The text is compelling and the art is realistic and richly detailed. Ages 8-up. Recommendation by Greg Leitich Smith.
GOOD FOR YOU: TODDLER RHYMES FOR TODDLER TIMES by Stephanie Calmenson, illustrated by Melissa Sweet (HarperCollins, 2001). Cheerful, multiculturally inclusive images accompany the universal poetic themes. An excellent choice! Ages 1-up. Read The Story Behind The Story from Stephanie Calmenson.
GRAMPA'S CORNER STORE by Dyanne DiSalvo-Ryan (HarperCollins, 2000). When a competing superstore moves in, Lucy's determination and community teamwork may be the best chance of survival for Grampa's corner store. Ages 4-up.
GROWING PATTERNS: FIBONACCI NUMBERS IN NATURE by Sarah C. Campbell, photographs by Sarah C. Campbell and Richard P. Campbell (Boyds Mills, 2010). This elegant picture book introduces the Fibonacci sequence (1+1+2+3+5+8+13+21+...)(each number in the sequence is the sum of the two previous numbers) through photographs of flowers and simple counting exercises. An afterword and glossary should pique the interest of anyone interested in numbers or nature. Ages 5-up. Publisher copy. Recommendation by Greg Leitich Smith.
HANA IN THE TIME OF THE TULIPS by Deborah Noyes, illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline (Candlewick Press, 2004). Hana and Papa used to pretend in the garden that he was ill and she could cure him with a kiss or a race or a rose. But suddenly, Papa seems ill for real, struck by greed, and it separates him from simple pleasures, those he loves, Hana. This intensely personal look at Tulip Mania ("the first documented case of market mania"), which took place in Holland from 1634-1637, brings young readers to a family caught up in its midst. Most remarkable are the evocative narrative voice, the deft integration of the artist Rembrandt, and original illustrations that seem to have been lifted from museum walls. In the flap copy, Ibatoulline remarks that, in preparation to illustrate this book, he studied Dutch and Flemish paintings. Broad appeal from young reader to adult; as welcome in first grade as in master's classes in fine art and literature. Ages 6-up.
HARVESTING HOPE: THE STORY OF CESAR CHAVEZ by Kathleen Krull, illustrated by Yuyi Morales (Harcourt, 2003). Cesar Chavez led thousands of migrant farm workers and changed their world forever. Krull's compelling and inspiring text belongs in every elementary classroom and library. Morales' art is just flat-out gorgeous. Open this first-rate picture book biography, and drink in the magic. A better-than-cinematic visual feast. Ages 6-up.
HENRY AARON'S DREAM by Matt Tavares (Candlewick, 2010). Young Henry Aaron had always dreamed of becoming a Major League baseball player. So he dedicated himself to that task, practicing at every opportunity. It still seemed impossible, in the 1940s, in segregated Alabama. But then Jackie Robinson burst onto the scene and Henry's dream seemed just a little more real. So he worked even harder, playing first in the Negro League and then in the minors, until in 1954, he earned a position with the Milwaukee Braves. And, then, twenty years later, he broke Babe Ruth's home run record... HENRY AARON'S DREAM is an uplifting and heartwarming account of how, through perseverance and ignoring the nay-sayers, Hank Aaron made it to the Major Leagues to become baseball's home run king. Ages 8-up. Recommendation by Greg Leitich Smith.
HENRY AND THE BUCCANEER BUNNIES by Carolyn Crimi, illustrated by John Manders (Candlewick, 2005). It's a pirate's life aboard the Salty Carrot with its crew of buccaneer bunnies, but Henry—son of the Barnacle Black Ear—would rather read than count his booty, swab the deck, or shout "Shiver Me Timbers!" And then... suffering sea dogs! Here comes a huge storm! What can booksmart Henry do to help the crew? A lively, hilarious adventure that'll speak to readers both avid and reluctant, brought to life in storytelling illustrations bursting with humorous detail. Ages 4-up. HIGHEST RECOMMENDATION. Read The Story Behind The Story.
HOPTOAD by Jane Yolen, illustrated by Karen Lee Schmidt (Harcourt, 2003). That toad, will he make it across the road? This is a can't-miss story-time read aloud. Every-word-perfect text; humorous, exciting, emotion-filled art. Great for young readers, required for writers and illustrators trying to figure out how a picture book should work. Ages 2-up.
HOTEL DEEP: LIGHT VERSE FROM DARK WATER by Kurt Cyrus (Harcourt, 2005). Dive into the deep, guided by twenty-one poems—wet, witty, and wild—that bring to life the ocean's dangers and delights. Magnificiently illustrated, grand in scope, and yet still child-centric in its focus on a lone sardine in search of his school. All ages. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. More on this title from Cynsations.
A HOUSE BY THE RIVER by William Miller, illustrated by Cornelius Van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu (Lee & Low, 1997). As the storm comes in and the river rises, Belinda and her mother have no choice but to wait it out and hope for the best. Ages 4-up.
HOW TO GET RICH ON A TEXAS CATTLE DRIVE by Tod Olson, ill. by Scott Allred and Gregory Proch, afterword by Marc Aronson (National Geographic, 2010) is a 48-page picture book, fictionalized memoir of one A.J. "Little John" Larkin. In 1876, fifteen year old Little John is a buckaroo from Iowa (of all places) who spends a year running cattle on the Chisholm Trail. Dual page spreads illustrate and explicate aspects of the "wild west," including maps of cattle trails, diagrams of tricks of the trade, pictures of Dodge City, and contemporary photos. Aronson's afterword discusses what is real and what is not. A fun and lively introduction to the old west, and a companion to HOW TO GET RICH IN THE CALIFORNIA GOLD RUSH and HOW TO GET RICH ON THE OREGON TRAIL. Ages 8-up. Publisher copy. Recommendation by Greg Leitich Smith.
JINGLE DANCER by Cynthia Leitich Smith (Creek) and illustrated by Cornelius Van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu (Morrow, 2000). Jenna, a Muscogee (Creek)-Ojibwe girl, is enthusiastic about wanting to jingle dance at the upcoming powwow. With time running short, she seeks the assistance of women of her contemporary intertribal community in bringing together the remainder of her regalia. A story of reciprocity and respect. Ages 4-up.
JERUSALEM SKY: STARS, CROSSES, AND CRESCENTS by Mark Podwal (Doubleday, 2005). Celebrating faith and the city itself, poetic prose and vivid paintings evoke peace and hope. Respectful and inclusive, the author/illustrator acknowledges that "no place has been fought over more" and suggests, "[p]erhaps possessing Jerusalem is like trying to own the sky." Yet the upraised prayers to one God suggest a belief in a brighter future. A miraculous book that more than meets its great challenge of expressing both the sacred and humanity's potential. Ages 4-up.
THE JOURNEY OF OLIVER K. WOODMAN by Darcy Pattison, illustrated by Joe Cepeda (Harcourt, 2003). Did you spot Oliver sitting beside the highway or watching a basketball game or with friends at the local diner? Was he in Oklahoma or Tennessee or Arkansas? We can't say more without giving away too much, but Pattison has woven almost real-life magic into a journey that rivals myth, and Cepeda's illustrations convey the best in us all. A moving, wonderful story that reveals its author's emotional genius. CYALR HIGHEST RECOMMENDATION for text and art. Ages 5-up. See also SEARCHING FOR OLIVER K. WOODMAN (Harcourt, 2005)(more on this titlefrom Cynsations).
JUAN BOBO GOES TO WORK: A PUERTO RICAN FOLK TALE by Marisa Montes, illustrated by Joe Cepeda (HarperCollins, 2000). In this colorful picture book, enthusiastic but bumbling Juan Bobo sets off to work with humorous and, in the (very) end, surprisingly successful results. Ages 4-up.
JUST A MINUTE by Bonny Becker, illustrated by Jack E. Davis (Simon & Schuster, 2003). This story plays with that famous line parents tell children: "Wait Just a Minute." While waiting in the ever expanding universe called 'Just a Minute,' Johnny counts every countable object around him, imagines the seasons have changed and wonders if he has grown old waiting for his mother. Becker and David have created a perfect kid's eye view of adult nonsense. Ages 4-up. Recommendation by Lindsey Lane.
THE LEGEND OF THE VALENTINE by Katherine Grace Bond, illustrated by Don Tate (Zondervan Publishing House, 2002). Marcus, age 9, is living in Alabama in the 1960s and facing prejudice, including the jailing of his father, a civil rights activist. The true story of St. Valentine inspires him to embrace forgiveness. Good choice for Christian schools, civil rights collections, and everybody else. Not just for Valentine's Day. Ages 5-up.
LET'S COUNT THE RAINDROPS, illustrated by Fumi Kosaka (Viking, 2002). While the merger of poems from a variety of voices works well in this title, it is perhaps equally intriguing as the debut of Kosaka as a children's book illustrator. Open the cover to study the vibrant, emotional, playful interior illustrations. Kosaka was born and raised in Japan, studied illustration at Brigham Young University in Utah, and lives in New York City. Ages 4-up.
LEVI STRAUSS GETS A BRIGHT IDEA: A FAIRLY FABRICATED STORY OF A PAIR OF PANTS by Tony Johnston, illustrated by Stacy Innerst (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011). The story of Levi Strauss and the creation of blue jeans gets a tall tale treatment in this hilarious picture book. The text is funny and full of whimsy, while the illustrations are bright and equally amusing. (An author's note tells the true story...). Ages 5-up. Recommendation by Greg Leitich Smith.
LIBRARY LION by Michelle Knudsen, illustrated by Kevin Hawkes (Candlewick, 2006). Miss Merriweather, the librarian, knows just how the library should be run. But what happens when a lion shows up? One of the most emotionally satisfying picture books ever published. Ages 4-up. Read The Story Behind The Story from Michelle Knudsen.
LINCOLN SHOT: A PRESIDENT'S LIFE REMEMBERED by Barry Denenberg, illustrated by Christopher Bing (Feiwel and Friends, 2008). This handsome biography of Abraham Lincoln takes the form of a volume of antique broadsheet newspapers including articles, advertisements, and headlines ripped from, well, yesterday's news. Told in engaging prose, with photos interspersed with graphics, LINCOLN SHOT offers a fascinating glimpse into the trials of Lincoln's life and presidency. LINCOLN SHOT is accessible, thorough, and highly recommended. Recommendation by Greg Leitich Smith.
LITTLE DOG LOST: THE TRUE STORY OF A BRAVE DOG NAMED BALTIC by Monica Carnesi (Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin, 2012). In January 2010, a little dog was seen floating on an ice flow in the middle of the Vistula River (Poland), some sixty miles from the Baltic. Attempts to rescue him proved fruitless. Two days after he was first spotted, the research vessel Baltica, fifteen miles off the coast, spotted him. Several attempts and dunkings later, he was brought aboard, and is now an honored and dry member of the crew. LITTLE DOG LOST is charming and sweet tale, the simple text and expressive drawings richly evoking the heartwarming drama. Ages 3-up. Recommendation by Greg Leitich Smith.
LITTLE OWL'S NIGHT by Divya Srinivasan (Viking, 2011). Little Owl loves the night, visiting his nocturnal friends and feeling sorry for the ones who are up all day and never get to see the stars. Even as he falls asleep at dawn, though, he wants to know what the day is like... LITTLE OWL'S NIGHT is a quiet celebration of night, the break of day, and curiosity. Illustrations are bold and expressive. Altogether, an excellent choice for bedtime reading. Ages 3-up. Recommendation by Greg Leitich Smith.
THE LITTLE PRAIRIE HEN by Debbie Leland, illustrated by Ann Rife (Wildflower Run Press, 2003). Here is another jubilation of a book by the same creators of THE JALAPENO MAN and THE FIREGATOR. Leland and Rife have transformed the age-old tale of "The Little Red Hen," into a Texas-sized fable featuring a host of endangered animals, and starring the most endangered of all, Atwater's Prairie Chicken. Ages 5-up. Recommendation by Kathi Appelt.
LOONY LITTLE by Dianna Hutts Aston, illustrated by Kelly Murphy (Candlewick, 2003). Loony Little is a superb first book. Aston has set her retelling of the Chicken Little story in the Arctic. When her heroine Loony Little feels a drop of water fall on her head, she believes the polar ice cap is melting and must go in search of the Polar Bear Queen who is sure to fix the problem. After all, if she doesn't, who will? Aston has smartly included an environmental note for youngsters to learn more about the Polar Ice Cap and Artic animals. Ages 4-up. Recommendation by Lindsey Lane.
LOS GATOS BLACK ON HALLOWEEN by Marisa Montes, illustrated by Yuyi Morales (Henry Holt, 2006). A wonderfully celebratory bilingual Halloween read-aloud. Ages 4-up. Read The Story Behind The Story from Marisa Montes and Yuyi Morales.