The Lost Kitten by Lee and illustrated by Komako Sakai
This is a heart-felt picture book about a family adopting a needy kitten, translated from the original Japanese. Hina and her mother find a kitten on their doorstep. The mother cat looks on, with two other kittens by her side. This kitten is small and weak – maybe that is why the mother is asking people to care for it instead of caring for the kitten herself like her two other kittens. At first, Hina doesn’t want the kitten: it isn’t cute, it is sickly. But her mother takes in the kitten and begins to care for it, showing Hina how it is done. Hina’s mother is gentle and compassionate and teaches her daughter a valuable lesson about kindness and opening your heart. When Hina is left for a time with the kitten while her mother is out and her grandmother is napping, she panics when she can’t find the kitten. She searches all over for it, eventually finding it curled up asleep on a sweater in the closet. Hina has come to care for the kitten, whom she names Sleepy. The book is beautifully illustrated with soft colored pencil and paint. I especially like the message the book conveys about loving those who have special needs or who aren’t the most beautiful. Hina seems cold-hearted at first, not wanting the kitten because it may be sick and isn’t as cute as others, but she grows to love the kitten.
Blue Ethel by Jennifer Black Reinhardt
A gentle and sweet picture book about friendship and feeling comfortable with yourself. Ethel is a black and white cat who is very set in her ways. When Ethel’s daily routine gets shaken up, she learns that sometimes change is a good thing. She spends her days sitting on the porch looking out on her yard, chasing some bugs, and rolling on her favorite spot on the sidewalk. But one day, Ethel discovers that she is now blue after rolling in sidewalk chalk. This makes her feel self-conscious and she retreats indoors until Fluffy, a white cat, appears at her window pink, having also rolled in chalk, and the two begin spending their days together. Ethel is now okay with being black and white or maybe some days other colors. The final spreads feature Ethel and Fluffy in vibrant rainbow colors on the sidewalk and then sitting in a tree watching a magnificent sunset. Charming and whimsical illustrations add to the delight of the story.
Go Sleep in Your Own Bed! by Candace Fleming and illustrated by Lori Nichols
This is a fun bedtime book set on a farm with an ending that makes the book. Pig is ready for bed, but when he lays down in his sty, he finds Cow already there. “Go sleep in your own bed!” Pig tells Cow. Cow “clompety-stomps” to her stall, where she finds Hen in her bed and so on and so on until Dog tells Cat, “Go sleep in your own bed!” When Cat settles down on the porch, the little girl who lives in the farmhouse comes out and picks up Cat and they snuggle down to sleep in the girl’s bed, making for a sweet and satisfying ending. Young children will enjoy the repetition and onomatopoeia and anticipating which animal they will next find in the wrong bed.
The Road Home by Katie Cotton and illustrated by Sarah Jacoby
This is a beautiful picture book in which a songbird, mouse, wolf, and rabbit mother and her offspring prepare for winter – gathering food and finding a home. The book conveys the harshness of nature and animals’ struggle to survive amidst such threats as weather and predators. But it is told with such lyrical language and soft, muted, truly lovely watercolor illustrations that it is not frightening as much as awe-inspiring. The book is told in rhyming verse and each page includes the refrain “this road is hard, this road is long, this road that leads us home” until the end, in which mother and child safely reach their destination, showing that home is wherever parent and child are together. A quiet, reflective read.
Hattie & Hudson by Chris Van Dusen
In this picture book, a girl named Hattie is at a lake house with her parents. She enjoys canoeing on the lake. One day, she is so content she sings a song. This songs moves a huge, green creature deep underwater and he comes up to the surface. Hattie is not afraid of the creature, who has kind eyes and is gentle. She names him Hudson. But others on the lake are frightened by him and the townspeople hold an emergency meeting on how to rid the lake of the beast. Hattie knows she needs to come up with a plan to save Hudson. With his cooperation, they devise a plan and put it in motion the next day. The plans works and the town accepts Hudson. Visitors come from near and far to see him and all ends well. This is a sweet story about acceptance and friendship and not judging others superficially. Hattie is an admirable character – bravely standing up for Hudson in spite of opposition.
I love the watercolor illustrations – they are very detailed and bright and colorful, evoking the beauty of the lake and surrounding natural landscape. Hudson has kind eyes and beautiful, luminous skin to reflect his nature.
South by Daniel Duncan
This is a simple but sweet picture book about friendship. A burly fisherman, alone on his boat, finds a seabird with a broken wing. He sets the bird’s wing and the two spend their days together. But the fisherman knows that the bird can’t live with him forever on his boat and winter is coming, so he sets sail south and finds a lovely island for the bird. The two say goodbye. To remember his friend, the fisherman frames one of the bird’s feathers. He then sets sail for home and his awaiting family. The gentleness of the fisherman and his ministrations to the bird tug at your emotions, as does his decision to set the bird free once his wing is healed. The illustrations are wonderful – warm and endearing, clearly showing the affection between the man and the bird, with interesting scenes of the sea and the interior of the boat. A tender read.
There Might Be Lobsters by Carolyn Crimi and illustrated by Laurel Molk
A delightful, sympathetic, and funny book about overcoming your fears. Sukie is a small dog with a big fear of the beach. She will not join her girl Eleanor to play on the beach, despite Eleanor’s encouragement. Sukie’s sad face is contrasted with Eleanor’s enthusiasm as she continues to encourage Sukie with cries of “Come on, Sukie, you can do it!” Sukie has all kinds of worries – the waves are big, the beach ball might hit her in the nose, and there might be lobsters. So Sukie watches Eleanor play with an anxious look on her face and her beloved Chunka Munka stuffed monkey by her side. But then Chunka Munka is swept away by a wave and Sukie loses her fear in her concern for her favorite toy. She swims after Chunka Munka and rescues him from the waves, bringing him safely back onto shore. This act of heroism makes little Sukie feel big: though she is small, Chunka Munka is even smaller and she was able to save him. The rest of the day, she is able to enjoy the beach and not a lobster in sight! With cute and humorous illustrations (notice the seagulls and their thieving ways).