Wednesday, April 29, 2009


MOON RABBIT by Natalie Russell (Viking)
In this simply told, kinder-gentler version of "city mouse/country mouse," an urbane rabbit discovers a kindred spirit in the park and enjoys a stretch of days spent frolicking before her old lifestyle calls her back.

Back to her home, back to her favorite cafe, back to all the things she liked to see and do.
And she no longer gazed at the moon and wondered if there was someone out there.
Another little rabbit just like her.
Because she knew that there was.
And he was coming to visit the very next day.

The sweetness of the illustrations is a standout, from the attractive patchwork and silver foil moon on the cover, the muted, decorative tones and patterns, the ivy and blossoms and uniquely collaged foliage of the trees that blossom and twine from page to page, and most of all the loose and playful lines, the likes of which have not been seen since Robert Kraus's early work (namely, the RABBIT AND SKUNK series). The storyline is the antithesis of Shel Silverstein's controversial classic allegory THE GIVING TREE, in which a tree (or a woman?) gives and gives and gives until she ends up becoming a stump of her former self. Conversely, in this book, the decision to stay true to oneself and stay whole creates lives that are joyfully shared and ultimately broadened. No martyred bunnies here! It's funny how a book that is reminiscent of other great books can be so truly original. Happens once in a rabbit moon. (4 and up)

Also of interest:
Other darling new picture books in which less is more.

THE SECRET CIRCUS by Johanna Wright (Roaring Brook)
As a frustrated agent in my fantasy life, I am perpetually trolling etsy and the Renegade Craft Fair in search of future illustrators, and a couple of years ago I fell instantly in love with this artist and bought a lovely little print called "Ghost of Grandma" which hangs in my kitchen. She had gorgeous paintings featuring fortune tellers and treehouses and hot-air balloons so I asked her, "have you ever thought of doing children's book illustration?" and she said, " Funny you should say that! I have one, but I haven't found a publisher yet." So I waited and waited and waited and waited and at last we have the first foray from this delightful talent, which reads like looking through a kaleidoscope into an artist's dream. Shhhh, the young reader is privy to a secret show that only the mice know about, only the mice know what to wear, what to eat, how to get there and who they'll see, and most importantly, how to keep it all a secret. By the end of the book, one feels inducted into an exclusive, miniature club. A sketchy style in predominantly darker, autumnal tones is backlit by the sparkling of the recurrently appearing Tour Eiffel. A moody bedtime story that is tres bon. (3 and up)

PUZZLEHEAD by James Yang (Atheneum) Dedicated to "the genius who invented recess," oooh boy, what a charmer we've got here. Puzzlehead and his four friends go exploring for things to do, each finding a spot to fit in perfectly. When at long last Puzzlehead finds a place where all his angles fit, he still longs for his friends. Is there a way they all can play? A clever preschool surprise ending awaits to close this toy story in a satisfying way. Clean, angular and cheerful contemporary artwork, sponge-painted in spots against a white backdrop makes the best use of blocks in a book since Pat Hutchins' dramatic wordless adventure CHANGES, CHANGES. (3 and up)

On a personal note:
Chicago friends, are you-all going to the Celebration of Children's Books at 6:00 tonight at The Book Cellar, 4736 N. Lincoln? The invite reads: "Calling all teachers and parents! Join us for a very special evening celebrating children's authors. Discover new books, mingle with other parents and teachers, and receive special discounts on merchandise all evening!" There will be featuring an embarrassment of riches when it comes to authors and illustrators in attendance: Brenda Ferber, Adam Selzer, Ruth Spiro, Juanita Liepelt, Sean Callahan, Mary Jo Reinhart, Paula Nathan, James Kennedy, Renanah Lehner and Gina Bazer! WOW! You know you need your copy of HOW TO GET SUSPENDED AND INFUENCE PEOPLE autographed, don't you? Be there or be square (I in fact may be forced into being square tonight, but I'll try).

If they don't shut down the airlines because of swine flu, I'm looking forward to seeing old friends and people I admire at the New York Library Association conference this week, including (but not limited to!) Kyra Teis, illustrator of THE MAGIC FLUTE: AN OPERA BY MOZART, Nick Glass of (if your school doesn't have this resource, you need it!), Martha Hamilton and Mitch Weiss, who wrote my favorite storytelling guide of all time, and Starr LaTronica and Sue Bartle, two of the most inspiring and gifted librarians I have ever met in my adult life. I'm also looking forward to meeting Bill Barnes and Gene Ambaum, creators of the celebrated booklover's comic strip, Unshelved...yes, I'm lucky, and with any luck, I'll see you there, too!

Last but not least, kudos to friends at TeachingAuthors on their new blog, sure to be a boon for those aspiring to be published or who seek to hone their craft, and to Jen Robinson, a true children's book expert and one of the hardest working women in the kidlitosphere, for lending her blogging expertise to Booklights, the parenting component on-line at PBS. Great efforts, women, and much appreciated!
Links are provided for informational use. Don't forget to support your local bookseller.
More Esmé stuff at

9 comments: said...

Thanks for all these beauties!

Ruth Spiro said...

Hi, Esme-
Thanks for the shout-out. Hope you can make it tonight!

Matt Bartle said...

Yup, Sue Bartle is pretty ok.

Jen Robinson said...

Thanks so much for your support, Esme! You're one of the hardest working women in the Kidlitosphere yourself, that's for sure.

Unknown said...

Thanks for the mention!

I am very pleased you caught the dedication to the genius who invented recess.

He is still a genius.

johanna said...

Thank you so much for this, Esme! You are such an inspiration to me.

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