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).
The Forever Garden by Laurel Snyder and illustrated by Samantha Cotterill
This is a lovely book about intergenerational friendship and continuity. The book is narrated by Laurel, a little girl who is friends with her adult neighbor, Honey. Honey is an avid gardener and Laurel enjoys spending time with Honey in her yard as she tends to her garden. Honey shares her bounty with Laurel and her family. But then Honey’s mother gets sick and Honey has to move to care for her. The friends miss each other, but Honey helps Laurel understand that the garden will still go on: though Honey will not get to enjoy the berries that will fruit on the new strawberry plants she plants before she moves, others will benefit from her work just as she enjoyed the grapes that were planted by another before she moved in. Together, the two of them plant an apple tree before Honey leaves. When a new family with children moves in, Laurel befriends them and helps them tend to the garden, picking up some of Honey’s habits, such as singing to the kale. I like how the book displays the ways in which friendships change us, as we absorb some of our friends’ interests or traits that help to shape who we are. A warm-hearted and touching story. With colorful and cheerful pen and ink illustrations.
Bunny’s Book Club by Annie Silvestro and illustrated by Tatjana Mai-Wyss
Bunny falls in love with books when he hears the librarian reading to children outside the library during the summer. But when summer is over, story time moves back inside. Bunny finds a way to sneak into the library (through the book drop!) and get his fill of books. Reading sparks his imagination – he especially loves adventure books. As his friends visit him, he turns each one of them into a reader also. Soon a menagerie of animals are breaking into the library and taking books – until the librarian catches them one night! Her solution – give each animal a library card. Now the animals regularly visit the library and meet at Bunny’s house for Bunny’s Book Club. A sweet, comforting book about the joy of reading with cute and detailed watercolor illustrations.
Big Cat, Little Cat by Elisha Cooper
This is a gentle picture book about the cycle of life, appropriate for young children. It tells the story of a household with a lone cat who add a second cat to their family. The two cats spend their time together and are happy. Many years go by, then the older cat passes away. The younger cat and the human members of the family are all sad, but then another cat, young like the surviving cat used to be, joins the household and the cycle repeats with an older cat and a younger cat bonding. A touching story about loving and grieving and life going forward after loss told with respect. Illustrated mainly in black and white, with one black cat and one white cat, and hints of color in the background.
Caterpillar Dreams by Clive McFarland
This is a sweet and gentle picture book about a caterpillar with big dreams and the adventure he goes on. Henri lives in a garden, but he dreams of flying and seeing the world beyond his garden. Some of his friends discourage him from embarking on an adventure, but Toad tells him, “Here’s the thing with dreams….If you don’t chase them, they always get away.” So with the help of some new friends, Henri makes it over the garden wall, across the road, and across the lake. There he discovers a hot air balloon and is about to take off on his great adventure when a cocoon forms around him. Henri thinks his dreams are done. Children will delight in having knowledge that Henri doesn’t – knowing what change is coming to Henri. When Henri emerges from his cocoon, he is of course a butterfly and his dreams of being able to fly are realized. In a charming ending, Henri chooses to fly back home, “the most amazing, incredible, impossibly possible place of all.” A feel-good read with a message about chasing your dreams as well as appreciating what you already have.