Life by Cynthia Rylant, with illustrations by Brendan Wenzel

Find in catalogIn a stunning new picture book, Newbery Award winner and prolific Oregon author, Cynthia Rylant, has teamed up with the up-and-coming illustrator – and Caledcott Honor winner – Brendan Wenzel.  It’s a cross-generational artistic collaboration that really works.

“Life” is deceptively simple.  Rylant’s text is spare, the sentences short, and pairs beautifully with the evocative and engaging illustrations.  Wenzel uses a variety of media, heavy acrylic brush strokes creating the rocks and earth, with watercolor and pencil for the dense foliage that curls across the pages.  At the surface level, the book is suitable for sharing with the youngest child, with baby animals galore, and stars, and camels, and whales.

Not only does the book capture the wonder and joy of life, it also holds space for the challenges that face us.  An adult reader will bring their own experiences to the book, seeing hidden meanings everywhere.  It’s here that Rylant and Wenzel truly work their magic with the lightest of touches.  “Life is not always easy,” they say.  “There is always a new road to take.”

For me, two spreads stood out in particular.  As we see daily headlines about the effects of climate change, a quizzical polar bear reminds us that in every corner of the world there is “something to protect.”  And, in an absolutely gorgeous two page spread of birds flying in the moonlight, “…know something about life: that everything is changing.”

Same Place, Same Things by Tim Gautreaux

Find in catalogThis is a book of short stories by Louisiana author Tim Gautreaux. The stories are about ordinary people facing extraordinary decisions in their lives. The characters have a remarkable amount of depth and humanity. Gautreaux is an incredible writer and I highly recommend this collection of his work.

The Glitch by Elisabeth Cohen

Find in catalogThe blurb: “A high-profile, TED-talking, power-posing CEO and mother of two has it all under control until a woman claiming to be a younger version of herself appears, causing a major glitch in her over-scheduled, over-staffed, over-worked life.”

The CEO/mother of two (Shelley): Amazing characterization. Get through how horrifying she is in the first chapter and appreciate her as satire. Some lines that didn’t necessarily make me laugh out loud but did make me smile wrily:

“Users will never have to take off their device. They can have the benefits 24/7/365.25.”

“He’s twenty-six, for Chrissakes! How long can you retain your wunderkindhood?”

“Home is the place where, when you don’t want to be seen in public with someone, you take them for lunch.”

“There’s a concept in Buddhism called Beginner’s Mind, which I’ve read about in business periodicals.”

Shelley’s not very likeable but I loved her voice and her self-delusion. (I didn’t need to know so much about her nasal-clearing routines, which went nowhere. Nor did her being hit by lightning as a twenty year old have any bearing on the plot, though I kept waiting for it to mean something.)

The woman claiming to be a younger version of herself (Michelle): Misleading. Who is she? The possibilities keep shifting, and because of that, I was confused about what kind of book I was actually reading. Is she a younger version of Shelley? Is this book magical realism? Will Shelley get a chance to relive her life as she should have? But maybe Michelle is a corporate spy? Oh, is this a thriller? It seems like she’s stalking Shelley. But now Shelley, for no good reason, trusts Michelle with her kids? And Michelle is on her side? Whatever. This (and the resulting confusing plot) was the weak point. The glitch, if you will. Read it for Shelley, not Michelle.

Winterhouse by Ben Guterson

Find in catalogWinterhouse is a gothic children’s book with hands-on word magic and puzzles and otherworldly magic and supernaturalism. Orphan (of course) Elizabeth Somers goes off to the fabulous Winterhouse hotel for the Christmas holidays. Bookish and wordy-nerdy, she meets Freddy, a young inventor, as well as mysterious hotel owner Norbridge Falls and a sinister couple dressed in black. She also encounters anagrams, word ladders, picture puzzles, backwards writing, code, a clue-filled family tree, and one extremely compelling book. I enjoyed playing along to solve the mystery (getting from “nuts” to “fuel” in five steps, plugging into the Vigenere cypher, studying that family tree). Fun book for lovers of word games and mysteries.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by J.K. Rowling

Find in catalogFantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (Hogwarts Library book) is a book that describes the creatures mentioned in the Harry Potter book series. The book is written as a sort of encyclopedia. It includes commentary from some of the characters in the Harry Potter series. I recommend this book to anyone who is a fan of that series or who enjoys fantasy. They would enjoy the author’s very creative imagination.

The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J.K. Rowling

Find in catalogThe Tales of Beedle the Bard is a collection of fairy tales from the Harry Potter book series. It includes the well-known story “The Tale of the Three Brothers,” which became one of the themes in the book “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.” I recommend this book to anyone who likes the Harry Potter series, fairy tales, or short stories.

A Children’s Treasury of Mythology by Margaret Evans Price

I have had so much fun reading this book, one story at a time, to my little girl for bed time. She laughs at my pronunciation of the names, and asks questions about the stories and few pictures included. I hope that she stays interested in the classic nature of these stories. This translation is a simplified version, which is a great introduction for young children.

The Crunching Munching Caterpillar by Sheridan Cain and Jack Tickle

Innocent envy. The caterpillar is always hungry; growing and growing. He wants the wings of the bird, the freedom to fly. He dreams a long dream and wakes up as a beautiful butterfly!

This was presented in a good way, for appreciating the traits of others and growing into the person you want to be someday… even if that takes a little time.

The Giant Jumperee by Julia Donaldson and Helen Oxenbury

Find in catalogOh My, this was a fun book! Another treasure from Dolly Parton’s Imagination Foundation collection. My daughter loves receiving a book in the mail every month and is so excited to open it and see what the story is.

All the big animals are scared of the Giant Jumperee, but not Mama Frog. (The eye roll is so precious) There are many actions to play out while reading and the story is great! Even the smallest creature can be big if they believe.

Dog Loves Books by Louise Yates

Find in catalog“But most of all, He loves to share [books].”

I love reading to my daughter, which is good, because that is most of the reading I do these days. This book is such fun, because it shows kids how you can use books to keep you occupied, go on adventures, meet new people, and really dive into a book. I so hope that bookstores never disappear!