Giselle Potter is a unique author and illustrator. Her books feature one-of-a-kind characters and tackle complex issues in a magnificent way. I was first introduced to Giselle Potter as the illustrator of Toni Morrison’s The Big Box. Her artistic style blends folk art and whimsy in a way that makes it easily recognizable as her own. Then I discovered The Boy Who Loved Words by Roni Schotter, which combines Potter’s illustrations with cut out words producing a lovely collage affect that contributes so much to the story. Needless to say, I was delighted to hear about This is My Dollhouse which is both written and illustrated by Giselle Potter.
The main character is a young girl who has made her own dollhouse out of different materials. She painted bricks on the outside of a cardboard box and divided the inside into sections which made up the rooms. Her family consists of a variety of figures, Daddy is a stuffed bear, and Grandma Mousey is a mouse.
My personal favorite is the elevator the twins ride up to the rooftop pool where they go swimming. The young girl takes great pride in her dollhouse as she has decided what to include and made it herself.
The girl’s friend Sophie also has a dollhouse, but Sophie’s dollhouse is store-bought and perfect. Every detail was decided for Sophie and so she has a hard time imagining the world for her dolls apart from what she has already been provided by the toy company. When the girl tries to make suggestions, Sophie resists. This creates tension between the two girls.
When Sophie comes over to play, the girl covers her dollhouse. She is nervous that it is not “perfect” like her friends. In fact she hides it beneath a blanket and hopes it goes unnoticed.
This is My Dollhouse is an inspiring picture book that promotes imagination, play and creative problem solving. It invites kids to make their own toys and dream up their own stories rather than playing in the worlds that are imagined for them by others. This is a remarkable picture book that is a must have for all kids.
Click here to purchase a copy of This is My Dollhouse (affiliate link).
*I received a complimentary copy of This is My Dollhouse in exchange for my honest review.
The Nian Monster* by Andrea Wang is a delightful story about the Chinese New Year. Xingling and her grandmother PoPo are getting the family apartment ready for the annual celebrations. PoPo shares with Xingling the legend of the Nian Monster, who would eat whole villages each new year. The villagers learned that the Nian Monster had three weaknesses, loud sounds, fire, and the color red. From then on, people decorated their homes with red banners and lanterns, drums and gongs, and lit firecrackers to keep the monster away.
Suddenly and unexpectedly, the Nian Monster appears, threatening to terrorize the city and devour its inhabitants. It’s up to Xingling to outsmart the monster and save Shanhai. Xingling is a strong and clever female protagonist, reminiscent of Elizabeth from The Paper Bag Princess.
The Nian Monster teaches young readers about the Chinese New Year. From the casserole that Xingling helps her grandmother prepare to the noodles eaten to represent long life, we learn about many of the culinary traditions of the New Year in a fun way.
Alina Chau’s illustrations are colorful and playful watercolors that add an element of comedy to the text, instead of making it intimidating or scary. The Nian Monster is adorable, with its warm color scales and large, round eyes.
The Nian Monster is not only a wonderful book for celebrating the Chinese New Year, but can be read year round as a picture book with a strong female character. This book is perfect for readers ages 4-8.
Click here to purchase a copy of The Nian Monster (affiliate link).
*I received a complimentary copy of The Nian Monster in exchange for my honest review.
Miss Moon: Wise Words from a Dog Governess* written and illustrated by Janet Hill is a collection of life lessons Miss Moon learns from her experience taking care of 67 dogs in France. This is a cheeky book that tucks in that the lessons are key to raising well-mannered dogs (and humans). The text is simple and accompanied by vivid and highly-detailed paintings. Upon closer examination, the reader will see humorous details infused in each.
Miss Moon: Wise Words from a Dog Governess is perfect for kids ages 3-8. Young readers will absolutely love studying the artwork throughout and considering how it conveys, or contradicts, the lessons. The lesson from the page above is to “make the most of any weather,” whereas the lesson from the page below is to “practice the art of conversation: list more than you speak.”
Click here to purchase a copy of Miss Moon: Wise Words from a Dog Governess (affiliate link).
*I received a complimentary copy of Miss Moon: Wise Words from a Dog Governess in exchange for my honest review.
You Are One and the sequel You Are Two by Sara O’Leary celebrate the milestones during the first two years of a baby’s life. Each book is written in second person, directly capturing the experience of the child.
You Are One begins, “So much has changed in just a year. You are one!” It continues to highlight all the changes and accomplishments of a one year old, from first steps and eating solids to communication and favorite games.
You Are Two picks up where You Are One left off. It highlights the desire for independence and decision making, from personal style to eating on ones own. You Are Two reminds me of my close friend’s two-year-old daughter in the sweetest way. Emotions are stronger than during the first year, but a child’s personality is becoming more prominent.
You Are One and You Are Two are perfect additions to home library collections. These would make great 1st and 2nd birthday presents for toddlers. The illustrations by Karen Klassen are perfect, they are tangible and sentimental, capturing the emotions of each milestone from the parent’s perspective but also in a way that is accessible for kids.
Click here to purchase copies of You Are One and You Are Two (affiliate links).
*I received a complimentary copy of You Are One and You Are Two in exchange for my honest review.
Nanette’s Baguette by Mo Willems is a hilarious new picture book filled with awesome end rhymes and so much fun. Nanette’s mom assigns her the most important responsibility, going to get the baguette. At first she is excited about the task, though she is quickly distracted. But, once she remembers, she’s off once again to the bakery to get the baguette.
Once warm, tasty, delicious baguette is in her hands, the temptation is too much to resist. It is then that Nanette notes how much baguette there really is. Enough for a taste or two!
The problem is, once Nanette starts tasting the baguette, she cannot stop!!!! (I can definitely make a text to self connection here.) With the baguette gone, regret sets in. Nanette must make her way home empty handed. As she walks slowly home it begins raining, an appropriate emotional setting to reflect her mood, becoming more anxious about having to tell her mom what happened.
Poor Nanette is overcome with emotion as she comes clean. Not to worry, her mom has an idea. One that shows the reader that Nanette and her mom are not that different after all!
Nanette’s Baguette is one of the funniest picture books I’ve read in a long time. Mo Willems’ illustrations integrate photos along with paper and cardboard constructions, reminiscent of the Knuffle Bunny series. This book is perfect for young readers ages 3-6.
Click here to purchase a copy of Nanette’s Baguette (affiliate link).
The Littlest Family’s Big Day by Emily Winfield Martin is a delightful story about a very small bear family with their baby fox that moves to the forest. As soon as they get settled, they are ready to explore. Along their way they encounter all kinds of little forest creatures who are very welcoming and quickly become their new friends.
They chase the breeze to discover beautiful butterflies fluttering about. Then continue deeper and deeper into the forest, finding an appropriate amount of adventure along their way until suddenly they realize they are lost! Will the littlest family of wanderers find their way back to their new home?
The Littlest Family’s Big Day is a very cute story about moving to a new place. The illustrations are beautiful, filled with color and fantastic nature-filled details. The characters remind me of the Calico Critters toys in a wonderful way. The story structure is somewhat reminiscent of an all-time childhood favorite of mine We’re Going on a Bear Hunt.
The Littlest Family’s Big Day is perfect for young readers ages 3-7. Click here to purchase a copy of The Littlest Family’s Big Day (affiliate link).
*I received a complimentary copy of The Littlest Family’s Big Day in exchange for my honest review.
Patricia Polacco is a phenomenal author. Her children’s picture books address important issues in a sophisticated way. She crafts strong characters who face real-life problems with courage and integrity. The Trees of the Dancing Goats is no exception.
Based on a true childhood memory, Patricia Polacco wrote the story of young Trisha and her family preparing for the eight days of Hanukkah. Everyone is hard at work. Her cherished Babushka makes the candles and potato latkes. Her Grampa is hidden away carving marvelous animals as presents for the kids.
Trisha’s mother sends her to the Kremmels’ house for cornmeal and she discovers that the family is quite ill. She learns that scarlet fever is affecting many of the families in the neighborhood. Her own family is one of the few not impacted by the epidemic. They try to continue preparing for the holidays as planned, but it just doesn’t feel right while so many of their friends and neighbors are unwell.
Thinking about the meaning of Hanukkah and the miracle of the light that it celebrates, Trisha’s family decides to make the holidays special for their neighbors as well. Even if they celebrate different ones.
They cut down parts of trees to make small Christmas trees and decorate them with their own wooden carvings. Though Trisha is initially sad that she will not be able to enjoy the beautifully carved figures her Grampa made, she knows it’s the right thing to do. They pack baskets with chickens and latkes and her Babushka even puts one homemade Hanukkah candle in each and they deliver them to their ailing neighbors.
The Trees of the Dancing Goats is a fantastic picture book with a powerful message. It teaches the importance of friendship and making personal sacrifices for the happiness of others. It also recognizes one commonality between Hanukkah and Christmas, the coming together of friends and families to celebrate their traditions and histories.
In a classroom setting, this would be a wonderful mentor text for a memoir writing unit.
Click here to purchase a copy of The Trees of the Dancing Goats (affiliate link).
Little Santa by Jon Agee is a picture book that tells the story of how Santa came to be… Santa. Little Santa lived in the North Pole with his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Claus, and his six siblings. Life was challenging and including a series of daily chores, from chopping wood, shoveling snow and stoking the fire. The Claus family was miserable, except for Santa.
The Claus Family decides to move to Florida to escape the cold. The night before they were supposed to move, there is a terrible blizzard and the Claus family gets snowed in. Little Santa shimmies up the chimney, his favorite pastime, and goes in search for help.
Along his way, he meets a special reindeer and a house full of elves. It is with their help that Little Santa is able to save the day. The Claus Family decides to move to Florida after all, but they leave Santa behind.
Little Santa is a sweet story for young ones, ages 3-6. To purchase a copy click here (affiliate link).
We were a little late to the black and white board book game, but Lucy enjoys looking at these stunning books. She tries to hold the book herself and practices turning the pages back and forth. When she starts understanding following directions and speaking words, it’ll be great to ask her to point to certain objects or ask her to name them herself.
- Look Look! by Peter Linenthal is a visually striking board book that features intricate black-and-white cut-paper art. The red text is large and stands out. Different nouns paired with actions, for example the fish swim and the flower blooms. Lucy loves looking at the images across the pages of this book. Click here to purchase a copy of Look Look! (affiliate link).
- Spots and Dots by Chez Picthall is perfect for babies from 0-6 months. It features high-contrast images beginning with black and white shapes, then adding in primary colors and eventually pink. These images are bold and captivating and Lucy loves looking at each page for long stretches of time. Click here to purchase a copy of Spots and Dots (affiliate link).
- Baby Animal by Phyllis Limbacher Tildes includes 8 adorable close-ups of baby animals. From baby panda to baby zebra, the skillful use of black and white and the sense of space make this a lovely book to look at. Click here to purchase a copy of Baby Animal (affiliate link).These Lamaze books are the best! Though they are recommended for kids age 12 months and older, Lucy “reads” them with supervision. First and probably most importantly, they are machine washable. The covers are plush and the pages are brightly colored and engaging.
- In Captain Calimari’s Treasure Hunt, join the pirate calamari as he searches for a treasure in the ocean. He sees a Sparkly Fishy and Sunny Starfish, but none of these creatures are the treasure he seeks. The sweet end rhymes move the story along and at the end we discover a small circular mirror and learn that the treasure we’re seeking is you! Click here to purchase a copy of Captain Calmari’s Treasure Hunt (affiliate link).
- Peek-a-Boo Forest is a lift-the-flap soft book that allows readers to explore different animals hiding in the forest. Each set of pages begins with a question, for example “Who is hiding behind the spruce?” and the rhyming answer, “Peek-a-boo! It’s the moose!” Not to mention, the flaps crinkle, possibly one of the most engaging features for little Lucy. Click here to purchase a copy of Peek-a-Boo Forest (affiliate link).
Sad Santa by Tad Carpenter is the story about what happens to Santa after Christmas. It’s December 26 and while kids around the world are enjoying playing with their new toys, Santa is sad.
The elves encourage Santa to look on the bright side and acknowledge all of their accomplishments, citing all the ways this Christmas was the best one yet. The reindeer even take a break from playing reindeer games to cheer him up. Mrs. Claus suggests a beach vacation, but Santa just can’t seem to relax.
Santa becomes despondent. He worries that he may never feel merry ever again. But then he receives a Christmas letter from a selfless young boy named Jimmy, asking for some very technologically advanced gifts for his family. A determined, instantly reenergized Santa heads back to the North Pole ready to get to work.
I love the story Sad Santa because it humanizes Santa in a sweet, endearing way. It is also important to teach kids that after focusing on a project for a long time, in this case preparing for Christmas, there can be a void afterwards as you refocus and reprioritize. As a student, I always experienced this feeling after submitting end of term papers or projects.
This story teaches that Santa finds his way by staying true to what he really is passionate about, giving to and helping others. Sad Santa is a terrific read for kids ages 7-10. Click here to purchase a copy of Sad Santa (affiliate link).