"review" · Children's · concenter · Picture book · recommend

{book} mother’s

30 days of pbDay Twenty-SixMy Mother’s Sari

By Sandhya Rao 

illustrated by Nina Sabnani

NorthSouth 2006

my mothers sari coverIllustrated using mixed-media, My Mother’s Sari opens with the endpapers bearing instructions in how to don a sari. The photographed human model’s person painted over in the manner of the characters we will soon meet in the story.

my mother sari 65_page1

Whether it is in imaginative play, nose wiping (a favorite), or finally to wrap oneself up in and dream, each of the children’s mother’s sari function differently. And yet the unity of the text, that possessive I the reader will hear with one voice, recommends that one mother’s sari can do all these things.

my mothers sari 65_page2

The children are in paint, but the sari is collage, bright in color, variant in pattern and texture.  The sari appears light with effervescent movement next to the densely drawn figures interacting with them, giving them the ephemeral dream-like quality.

a bilingual version

The metaphor of the sari is tied to the mother, and to the maternal and cultural burdens she bears. “How it makes me dream,” the narrative concludes.


Sandhya Rao is Senior Editor at Tulika Publishers. One of the finest writers for children in India today, her books have won awards and accolades: My Friend the Sea won the Ambitious Children’s Book Project award at the Berlin Children and Youth Literature Festival, 2005. My Mother’s Sari was chosen as an Outstanding International Book, 2007, by the United States Board for Books for Young People (USBBY) and the Children’s Book Council. What Sandhya cherishes most is that she has been able to follow her dream – doing books for children. For this, she cheerfully gave up a promising career in mainstream journalism and joined longtime friend Radhika to create multilingual books for children at a time when independent children’s publishing in India was nascent. She has written over 20 books and translated Astrid Lindgren’s Pippi Longstrump into Hindi. She enjoys different kinds of vegetarian cuisine and lives in Chennai.

Nina Sabnani is an artist, animation director and illustrator based in Mumbai since 2006. Currently, she is an Associate Professor at the Industrial Design Centre, IIT Bombay where she recently completed her Doctoral Research. Her area of research concerned Storytelling models in India, with a particular focus on the Kaavad tradition of Rajasthan. She has been teaching illustration, script writing and storyboarding, storytelling and simultaneously making films on diverse issues. She has illustrated several books for Tulika publishers, Chennai which have been translated in many languages.

{images belong to Nina Sabnani, text to Sandhya Rao}



"review" · Children's · concenter · Picture book · recommend

{book} a present nostalgia

30 days of pbDay Twenty-FiveWait! Wait! 

By Hatsue Nakawaki

Illustrated by Komako Sakai

Translated by Yuki Kaneko

Enchanted Lion Books 2013

wait-waitWait! Wait! is an ideal book for young children that gently follows their rhythms and preoccupations. With a text of few words, frequent repetitions, and delicate illustrations with which children will quickly identify, the book follows a young child’s discovery of other creatures. This discovery comes with the recognition that while other creatures can suddenly appear they can also go away and disappear just as quickly. But the delightful appearance of a dad and his playful swoop of his toddler up onto his shoulders will remind little ones that the people who love them will always be there and will never, ever not come back.—publisher’s comments.

wait wait birdsPretty acrylic and oil pencil illustrations focus the white expanse of the page. And they certainly sympathize with the young child audience. The accuracy of the toddling child’s postures anticipates a curious child hoping to take hold of the creatures about it. The sleek quick motion of nature escapes the still plodding inelegance of the young subject. Eventually the father picks up the child exclaiming: “Here we go!”: lending his height, stability, and mobility to the young one still discovering their own arms and legs.


Wait! Wait! is indeed a picture book about a fostered independence and engagement with the world, but it also fosters a reassurance (and reliance) in the strong and capable presence of the adult caregiver who is likely thinking to the child—Wait! Wait! don’t grow up too quickly! It is a picture book of stages, simultaneously anticipatory and nostalgic; for the child and adult reader alike.


Hatsue Nakawaki was born in 1974 in Tokushima, Japan. She is a prolific author of books for children and adults. She has written several novels over the past few years and has a strong interest in folklore. She is an author and a mother and loves creating stories.

Komako Sakai was born in Hyogo, Japan, in 1966. After graduating from Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music, Sakai worked at a kimono textile design company. She is currently one of the most popular authors and illustrators in Japan. Her books Emily’s Balloon and The Snow Day have been published in the United States and were received with starred reviews and much acclaim.

check out Book Dragon’s review 

{Images belong to Komako Sakai, text to Hatsue Nakawaki}


"review" · Children's · concenter · Picture book · recommend · wondermous

{book} birth stories

30 days of pbDay Twenty-Four: The Baby on the Way 

by Karen English

Illus. Sean Qualls 

Farrar Straus Giroux 2005

the baby on the way1The Baby on the Way was not what I was expecting. I thought it was going to be about a boy who is feeling anxiety about a new baby sibling on the way. And maybe Jamal is and maybe there is a younger sibling on the way, but the book takes a decidedly other track. It is a story a grandmother tells about when she was born in a decidedly different time.

With his grandmother harvesting salad-makings from the rooftop gardens, Jamal suddenly wonders if his grandma was a little girl, or smaller yet, an actual baby. He looks and looks at her, trying to reconcile the differences. As they return to kitchen and have their salads, she tells him about when she was born, the tenth child. The story crosscuts time between kitchen scene and historical past and often places them beside one another with stunning full-page portraits.

the baby on the way021Jamal (and Reader) learn how it was, the traditions, the community. Grandma’s voice is unlike the narrator’s in a pleasing way, but both have a sweet and entertaining way about them.

Grandma’s story has Jamal wondering if he will have a story of his own someday. Grandma tells him he can and that she has his story to give him as well as her own, reminding us that her own story must have been told her. The story inspires further storytelling in Jamal and his grandmother and for the reader and their family.

the baby on the way041

Little wonder at the confidence in both writer and artist to allot text-only pages beside full-length artwork, the voices and illustrations have an understated appeal. This is my first picture book illustrated by Sean Qualls, and I can tell you there will be many more.

The Baby on the Way makes the child a part of something larger. We come to understand that the boy’s place in the story and family will be both unique and shared; like the grandmother’s. All birth stories can hold importance, not just that of the latest arrival, and English acknowledges that these kinds of stories are situated in community. English gives a ‘baby on the way’ story depth and scope, context and legacy, inspiring the reader to lift their eyes from introspection and desire to participate in not just their own specialness, but that of their family’s as well.

Now, if only all children were so blessed to have the storyteller from which The Baby on the Way benefits–and to commission Qualls to do their family portraits.


Multi-cultural author Karen English has been writing children’s books since 1992. […]Many of English’s books focus on multi-racial friendships, feuding friends, resolving differences, and the internal struggles of young females facing a range of controversial issues from discrimination to questioning their own religious beliefs.” (blog for your book bio) English is a Coretta Scott King Honor Award-winning author and a retired elementary school teacher. She lives in Los Angeles, California.

books include: Francie (Farrar Straus Giroux 2002), Nadia’s Hands w/ Jonathan Weiner (Boyds Mills 1999), Nikki and Deja series.

Sean Qualls is an award winning, Brooklyn-based, children’s book illustrator, artist and author. He has illustrated a number of celebrated books for children, including Giant Steps to Change The World by Spike Lee and Tonya Lewis-Lee, Little Cloud and Lady Wind by Toni Morrison and her son Slade and Before John Was a Jazz Giant, for which he received a Coretta Scott King Illustration Honor. […] Qualls has created illustrations for magazines, newspapers, and advertisements. His work has been shown in galleries in New York and across the country. Sean draws inspiration from an array of influences such as movies, television, childhood memories, aging and decaying surfaces, architecture, old buildings, nature, folk art, fairy tales, Americana, black memorabilia, outsider art, cave paintings, collectibles, African art, golden books, vintage advertisement graphics, psychology, mythology, science fiction, music, and literature. He lives in lives in Brooklyn (where you can find him DJing on occasion) with his wife, illustrator/author Selina Alko and their two children Ginger and Isaiah.

do check out “Seven Questions over Breakfast with Sean Qualls” via Seven Impossible Things before Breakfast 

{images belong to Sean Qualls, text to Karen English}

"review" · Children's · concenter · Picture book · recommend

{book} a red knit cap girl to know

30 days of pbDay Twenty-Three:

Red Knit Cap Girl and Red Knit Cap Girl to the Rescue 

by Naoko Stoop 

Megan Tingley Books/Little, Brown and Co 2012 and 2013 respectively

red knit cap girl cover

I would start with “charming story,” but what captures my attention is the medium in which Naoko Stoop illustrates Red Knit Cap Girl: Acrylic, ink, and pencil on plywood. The gradation of colors catch in the grain creating an intriguing texture. The brushwork of the moon’s face is just lovely on plywood. The lanterns are pretty sweet, too.  Not every page bears a full-wash of color, but Stoop frames out a page or two, to striking effect.


Red Knit Cap Girl would like to speak to the Moon and wonders how to find her. She learns that Moon with come close, so Red Knit Cap Girl and friends dream up of ways to attract Moon’s notice. They create lanterns, sing songs, but cannot find her. Stories that reward problem-solving are rarely so understated and cute. The animal friends are really adorable. Cute and wise is even more rare.

The Moon smiles and says, “You have made it dark enough to see me and quiet enough to hear me.” For all the light and activity, there is a benefit to darkness and silence, to whispers and listening. Welcome to your next bedtime story.

red knit cap girl to the rescue cover

Stoop returns with her adorable Red Knit Cap Girl and animal friends—and paper cuts. The text is simpler as the illustrations create most of the narrative. And I must say the storm at sea is gorgeous in interpretation. The story is magical, flying with paper gliders, sailing in a paper boat, making new friends and helping them find their way before returning home.

red kcg2-10

red knit cap girl to the rescue page

The background colors are stronger of hue. The blues and greens are really beautiful. The illustrations are straightforward, calm and they make me think of a folk art version of something Jeffers would do, though with less clever humor. That Stoop carries off adventure stories without the impulse for high-energy is impressive and incredibly appealing.

I’m looking forward to Red Knit Cap Girl and The Reading Tree (2014).


Naoko Stoop’s love of drawing began when she was a young child growing up in Japan. She was educated at Keio University in Tokyo and New York School of Interior Design in New York. Naoko now lives and paints in Brooklyn, New York.” She “uses found materials including plywood and brown paper bags as her canvas. She has shown her work in a variety of galleries and stores in New York and hopes that, through her artwork, she can inspires the child within everyone. –jacket copy

Red Knit Cap Girl is her first picture book. She has also illustrated: All Creatures Great and Small (Board Book), Sterling Children’s Books 2012; Noah’s Ark, illus. for Susan Collins Thomas (Sterling 2013); Red Knit Cap Girl and the Reading Tree (2014)

“I walk around in my neighborhood with a sketchbook. And I meditate in my studio to be present. I’m trying to bring out the five-year old in people through my artwork. Because I believe that is the last moment before children start learning how complicated the world is, and that was when I once stopped drawing. It took me decades to come back to myself. Now? Here I am drawing everyday!” –(bio) 

{images/text belongs to Naoko Stoop}


"review" · Children's · concenter · Picture book · poet-related · recommend

{book} brotherhood

30 days of pbDay Twenty-TwoOh, Brother!

By Nikki Grimes 

Illustration by Mike Benny

Greenwillow Books/HarperCollins 2008

oh-brotherIt’s bad enough that Xavier’s new stepbrother, Chris, has moved into Xavier’s room, but now it looks like he’s also trying to steal Mami by being the perfect kid. […] In twenty powerful poems, two strangers learn to become brothers. Nikki Grimes captures the struggles—and eventual sweetness—of bringing together a family.—publisher’s comments

While the story is told in poems and illustrations from Xavier’s point of view, there is still space made available for the other characters to develop personalities and motivations of their own. And even with the relatively few pages and brevity of most of the poems, Grimes and Benny are able to accomplish the transition from suspicion and resentment to brotherly support and oath-making.

The spatial relationships are remarked upon, territory and occasions, but Grimes also focuses a great deal on names: as identity; as forms of ownership and relationship. She completes a narrative in the twenty poems not only through linearity, but through thematic threads.

oh brother pages

The illustrations contribute significantly to narrative coherence while also imagining that which a poem would evoke. The style is real and the composition features the boys, primarily, large on the page. Their close-ups place them in an intimate range of the reader, and allude to the subjectivity of the narrator.

I really dig the presence of Mami, and her mad-skills at baseball. The portrayal of a family coming together is not without its struggles, but is also unapologetically exciting and wonderful. Grimes is not gushy, nor is Benny cute. Oh, Brother! is neither sappy nor coy, but a frank and clever way to handle its subject matter.


Nikki Grimes does not consider herself a bona fide storyteller, but, as she told an audience at the Library of Congress, she is happy to own the title Poet. Born and raised in New York City, Nikki began composing verse at the age of six and has been writing ever since that time.” A “New York Times bestselling author Nikki Grimes is the recipient of the 2006 NCTE Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children. Her distinguished works include ALA Notable book What is Goodbye?, Coretta Scott King Award winner Bronx Masquerade, and Coretta Scott King Author Honor books Jazmin’s Notebook, Talkin’ About Bessie, Dark SonsThe Road to Paris, and Words with Wings. Creator of the popular Meet Danitra Brown, Ms. Grimes lives in Corona, California. (biography)

Mike Benny lives in Austin, Texas and has been illustrating for over 15 years. Clients include RollingStone, Time, New Yorker, GQ, Sports Illustrated, ESPN, Major League Baseball, NFL, Arena Stage, Random House, Harper Collins, Simon and Schuster, Greenwillow and Scholastic.” Mike has also illustrated picture books: America’s White Table by Margot Theis Raven (Sleeping Bear Press 2005) and The Listeners by Gloria Whelan (Sleeping Bear Press 2009)

 {image belongs to Mike Benny, its words are Nikki Grimes’}


"review" · Children's · Illustrator · Picture book

{book} lines

30 days of pbDay Twenty-One: The Line 

by Paula Bossio 

Kids Can Press 2013 (first publ 2011)

Line, The coverA little girl stumbles onto a line … and endless possibilities for fun! With a twist and a shake of the line, it becomes a slide, a giant bubble or even a jungle vine. But what — or who — could be at the other end?—publisher’s comments

The childlike-drawn little girl in pig tails and a scribbled-red (not pink) dress finds the line on the cover and flows it through the end pages. Who has drawn the line is revealed at the end, but who is able to interact with it and manipulate it throughout is never in doubt. The power of imagination, in creating narratives in the silence is demonstrated in this magnificent wordless picture book.

line Paginas42

I appreciate both the playful and sinister moments of the book; the pencil smudged affect; the familiarity of the drawing style in engaging the young reader. Bossio art is one of excellence in design and consideration of her audience. My critical eye moves intuitively to the political, but I believe even that read is entertained. Children, no doubt, will find this a fun book for its imaginative play, but I find it delightful how many grown-ups have enjoyed it as well.

LineThe_2333_preview (dragged)small

Has this one been made into a board book yet? Regardless, add this one to the rotation for the youngest and earliest reader alike.


Paula Bossio “studied graphic design in Colombia, a beautiful country in South America. Since 2000 she has been working with several publisher houses as a freelance illustrator and as an art director in different advertising agencies (BBDO, G2, Y&R- Rapp Collins Colombia). In 2009 Paula moved to Barcelona, Spain to do a postgraduate study in Illustration for children books. Paula´s work has been recognized in several international awards, Noma Japan- Katha Chitrakala-India, A la Orilla del Viento- Mexico between others. Currently she is living in Melbourne Australia.

“I am a passionated graphic designer, an entire illustration lover. I believe in the power of the word, of stories, of great ideas. I believe in the power of a line, of colors, of shapes. I believe that those ideas that are able to hold great meanings can change thoughts, beliefs and behaviors. I believe that visual communication is able to pass through countries, languages and cultures. An image is an incredible tool to convey what we really are and have inside ourselves.”

{images belong to Paula Bossio}


"review" · Children's · concenter · Picture book · poet-related · recommend · Uncategorized

{book} excused

30 days of pbI had thought to save Excuses, Excuses by Anushka Ravishankar for another time, having already shared two of her picture books this month. It suddenly seems apt as I’ve dropped off the map for the long weekend. I am also going to argue that this provides the opportunity to not only continue to revel in Ravishankar’s humor, but share another illustrator.

excuses coverDay Twenty: Excuses, Excuses

by Anushka Ravishankar, illustrated by Gabrielle Manglou

Tara Books 2012.

The stories Neel tells as excuse for his departure from intentions are as colorful as Gabrielle Manglou’s illustrations. Neel finds himself at an end of a week’s worth of excuses with the optimism that the next week is a new one; only instead of hoping he will be good and do as he says, we look forward to what excuses he’ll come up with next.

Excuses4Realist images are abstracted in mixed-media collage reflect Anushka Ravishankar’s text wherein Neel’s fancy is pieced among the familiar. Both Ravishankar and Manglou prove themselves poets, entertaining and smart.


Recommended for fans of Judith Voigt and Shel Silverstein.

….would’ve loved to write similarly creative excuses w/ Natalya, but more than that, the illustrations are inspiring.


Anushka Ravishankar a mathematics graduate, has made a name for herself internationally as an Indian children’s writer, with over 10 books of verse, fiction and non-fiction. Her special talent is in the area of nonsense verse, where she brilliantly adapts this difficult genre to Indian English usage, without a false note. Anushka Ravishankar can be said to have pioneered the Indian English nonsense verse form and brought it to international attention. She recently returned from a UK tour with Children’s Laureate, Michael Rosen, at the Children’s Bookshow.

Gabrielle Manglou was born in 1971 in Reunion Island, where she lives and works. She is a graduate of Graduate Schools of Fine Arts Montepellier and Marseille. A multidisciplinary artist, Manglou focuses on drawing in its original form. His sculptures, videos and installations then arise from the continuity of the creative process. Nourished by its roots carriers Creole imaginary “mesh”, the artist refers in works finely worked a magical world in which humans, animals and plants seem to converse with some glee. Since 2003, Gabrielle is an artist associated with The Magik!, A company that creates theatrical devices combining everyday objects and moving images. (Lerka bio)

{images belong to Gabrielle Manglou}