Picture Books

Libba: The Magnificent Musical Life of Elizabeth Cotten

By Laura Veirs, Illustrated by Tatyana Fazlalizadeh
Chronicle Books, 2018
Picture book, non-fiction
Ages 5-8, Grades K – 3
ISBN 10: 1452139962
Additional Format: e-book
Honors: Junior Library Guild Selection

Libba celebrates the life and accomplishments of acclaimed African-American singer-songwriter and folk musician, Elizabeth Cotten, whose childhood curiosity and determination ignited a lifelong love of music and desire to create. Left-handed, she taught herself to play her older brother’s guitar by strumming the instrument upside down and backwards. She wrote one of the most famous American folk songs of her era, Freight Train, when she was just eleven years old and performed the song (and many other original songs) all across the globe. Growing up in the segregated South, she faced many obstacles in her life and overcame barriers and prejudices to pursue her craft. A believer in lifelong learning, Libba Cotten knew her life’s purpose was to play, and she won a Grammy when she was in her nineties!

This picture book biography is an infectious work of love and devotion by author and singer-songwriter Laura Veirs and artist-activist Tatyana Fazlalizadeh. A gentle, magical reminder to never give up, Libba will inspire and uplift early bloomers, late bloomers, and bloomers of every sort. – GA

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Mabel and Sam at Home: One Brave Journey in Three Adventures

By Linda Urban, illustrated by Hadley Hooper
Chronicle Books, 2018
Picture book
Ages 4-8, Grades K – 3
ISBN-10:1452148570
Additional Format: e-book

“I am in command and we are safe,” Mabel assures her little brother on their first day in their new home. In this three-in-one Moving Day adventure, Mabel and her little brother, Sam, dig deep and face their fears and uncertainty in a new home, where even the same old things are different. Big sis Mabel takes charge, using her imagination to help Sam settle into the new environment.

Play acting on the high seas, in the gallery of the New House Museum, and in outer space Mabel is the kind of older sibling every little brother or sister deserves – a dash of bossy, a dollop of bold, and heaping serving of sisterly devotion. Mabel takes the helm as she and Sam adjust to the new place. With tenderness and humor, Linda Urban’s clever and funny text combine with Hadley Hooper’s cheerful color illustrations to create an endearing portrait of a lovable, creative big sister. – GA


Sarabella’s Thinking Cap

By Judy Schachner
Dial Books for Young Readers, 2017
Picture Book, ages 4 – 8, grades PK – 2
ISBN: 978-0525429180
Additional formats:  Kindle

“Sarabella had no time for small talk. In fact, she never talked much at all…because she was too busy thinking.”

Sarabella is a dreamer. Her days are filled with fascinating thoughts dancing through her imaginationdoodles of poodles, painted ponies racing across the sky, a garden growing animals, and even a bear with a good head for numbers. Her family, daydreamers themselves, see no issue with Sarabella’s way of thinking. Yet, there are times Sarabella’s imagination prevents her from concentrating on other important things, such as her schoolwork.  

But one Friday, Mr. Fantozzi, Sarabella’s teacher, sends the class home with the following task:

“A Penny for Your Thoughts: Draw a picture of your favorite daydreams.”

Sarabella is immediately excited by the assignment, but upon returning home, she realizes the challenge in trying to fit all of her ideas onto a piece of paper. With the help of an imagined whale, that suggests “to share it, you’ve just got to wear it,” Sarabella comes up with a solution. With only a brown paper bag and a few craft supplies, Sarabella creates a her thinking cap, “a spectacular collection of doodles and daydreams right on top of her head.”

With whimsical mixed-media collages, Judy Schachner brings us a heartwarming story of a little girl with a big imagination. Sarabella’s Thinking Cap shows the reader the value imagination and sends the message that creativity should be cultivated and nurtured.  -JD


Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls

by Eleni Favilli and Francesca Cavallo
Timbuktu Labs, Inc. 2016
Picture book
Ages 4 and up
ISBN 978-0120420476

Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls is a unique collection of 100 stories about women around the world of all ages. It tells about each woman from the past and present who changed the world in some way with the actions they took despite the challenges. Each story is one page biography about the amazing feat each one conquered. There are stories about scientists, painters, chefs, dancers, boxers, writers and the list goes on and on. Every girl can find that one person who will inspire them to push the envelope and be extraordinary.  The illustrations are by 60 women artists from around the globe. All the styles are different and fascinating. They really add more dimension to the stories.

This type of book is perfect to get girls of all ages reading and learning about how one person’s ideas, thoughts, and struggles can change an entire culture. It sparks the interests to go out and read more about these strong women as the book just gives them a small taste of each woman’s life. It is meant to inspire us all, but especially our young girls, to dream big- be confident- find our strengths- and help our fellow people. EM


What Will It Be, Penelope?

By Tori Corn, Illustrated by Danielle Ceccolini
Sky Pony Press, 2013
Picture Book
Ages 3-6, Grades PreK-K
ISBN 978-1620875421
Other formats: eBook

Have you ever had a hard time making decisions? Ever have a child melt down because you made a decision for them or know someone who does? This book is for you.

Penelope is a little girl who is indecisive about everything because she likes everything she sees. Every day there are decisions to be made. What should I wear, what do you want to eat? Where do you want to go? What do you want to play or do? Poor Penelope just can’t make all these decisions. Everyone gets frustrated with her as she tries to figure it out. Finally, everyone starts making decisions for her- even her best friend Eliza. Soon Penelope isn’t making any decisions on her own. She learns the hard way that not making any decisions has consequences.  Through a lot of trial and error and not liking some of the decisions made for her, Penelope finally starts making some choices of her own. They may not be all that great a choice, but it is her choice and she learns to feel confident and proud by sticking to the decisions she makes. Now she thinks she is a great thought processor and learns from her mistakes.

What Will It Be, Penelope? Addresses the importance of making your own decisions and sticking to them and sometimes learning from the mistake of poor decisions. Children will recognize the struggles Penelope has as something they have probably gone through as well. Sweet, funny, and a great life lesson learned at an early age. EM


Frida Kahlo and her Animalitos


By Monica Brown, Illustrated by John Parra
NorthSouth Books, 2017
Picture book, non-fiction
Ages 4 – 8, Grades PreK – 2
ISBN: 978-0-7358-4269-4

Honors: Pura Belpré Illustrator Honor * 2018 ALA Notable Children’s Book 2018  * New York Times/New York Public Library Best Illustrated Children’s Book of 2017

As a child, Frida counted among her closest companions two spider monkeys, a parrot, three dogs, two turkeys, an eagle, a black cat, and a fawn! As friends, they inspired her and easily took on human characteristics in her paintings.

It is through this lens that author Monica Brown introduces us to the life of Frida Kahlo (1907-1954), one of the most curious and talented 20th-century artists, who would inspire generations. Frida was the daughter of a German/Hungarian photographer and a Mexican mother who encouraged her to observe nature, enjoy animals, paint, and follow her dreams and imagination. Due to polio and a bus accident, she lived in physical discomfort most of her life, but art provided an escape.

Brown’s beautiful and bold biography works in perfect orchestration with the illustrations of John Parra. His understanding of Mexican heritage and love of Frida’s paintings and palette invite us to become part of her world and environment. We discover the personalities of each of her pets and how they contributed to her life and art.

Frida’s story is about how art can heal and is integral to daily life, and Brown’s interpretation of this famous artist’s story captures this essence with brilliance. Girls everywhere, artistically inclined or not, will be creatively inspired on every page. – PP


Willow

by Denise Brennan-Nelson and Rosemarie Brennan, illustrated Cyd Moore
Sleeping Bear Press, 2008
Picture book
Ages 5- 8, Grades K-4
ISBN:  978-1585363421
Honors:  Comstock Read Aloud Honor Book

Willow is a little girl with an incredible imagination. She paints and draws what she sees when she closes her eyes much to the distress of her very rigid teacher, Miss Hawthorn. Miss Hawthorn wants everyone to be the same, do the same things, see things the same way. Willow has a difficult time following these rules and gets fussed at a lot but doesn’t let it upset her or change the way her imagination soars.

Willow is also the only student to give Miss Hawthorn a present at Christmas, her favorite art book. Miss Hawthorn starts to look at the book and realizes the importance of how a strong and vivid imagination can take you places. She starts to paint, draw, and be creative. When the students come back to school after the holidays, they see their dreary room has been transformed. It is now bright and colorful. There are pictures everywhere, but the willow tree in the middle is the most special—a dedication to Willow for showing everyone the power of creativity, being yourself, using your imagination, and helping others find theirs.
-BSM