Picture Book Featurettes

Cruz the crow is different from the other crows he knows, and this is especially obvious when he is preparing for his first solo flight away from his comfortable home in Central Park. Though this is a rite of passage for the crows in Cruz’s community, his companions are all able to read and follow the street signs that proliferate the New York landscape in order to find their way home again. For Cruz, however, each of these signs sports disordered letters, and he struggles to read them because of his dyslexia. With his father’s encouragement, though, Cruz bravely steps into the wider world, finding unlikely companions along the way that help validate Cruz’s unique identity. Inspired by the author’s own experience with dyslexia, this picture book is an invitation for parents and teachers to have an open and honest conversation about what dyslexia is and is not with children who manage it every day. Using anthropomorphic crows to depict the common behavior of children in the face of dyslexia, this book seeks to offer a glimpse through a metaphorical window at one creature’s experience of not being able to read as well as his companions. Ink and pen illustrations feature myriad street signs that vacillate between standard writing and the disordered hodgepodge that people with dyslexia often observe. It is important to note that this book is designed to be shared with a child who has dyslexia as opposed to them reading it independently; the text is of medium length, and it is often difficult to read against the backdrop of the corresponding illustrations. At the end, readers will find a list of definitions of potentially challenging vocabulary used within the text along with a conversation guide to encourage parents and caregivers to support and advocate for children with dyslexia. This picture book is one that will resonate with any reader who has direct experience with the challenges that come with the reality of dyslexia.


Siblings Dominic and Ava love spending time with their Yaya and Papa, especially when the weather is warm. One day, a pair of ducks arrives overhead, looking somewhat worse for wear. The children quickly collect water and crackers to offer to the ailing ducks as a respite from their tiring travels, opening their hearts to the mallards in the process. Before long, the ducks have become a part of the family, often accompanying Dominic and Ava in their daily activities. But as the days grow colder and the ducks fail to arrive as expected, the siblings must learn an important lesson about migration as they eagerly hope for their friends’ return. This picture book was inspired by the author’s own children and the adventures they have together, and the children are the protagonists of this tale. While this is the second in its series, the first book does not need to be read in order to understand this one. Written in rhyming meter, this story develops a sing-song-like quality despite the lines being presented in an uneven rhythm. Throughout the book, the font is large and thick, making the text easy for caregivers to read when it appears against a plain backdrop. Each page features a richly colored illustration that incorporates a digital collage-style display, giving readers a large assortment of visual components to investigate while enjoying the story itself. Savvy readers will look for the images of a cardinal and a lizard which can be found on most pages of the story, and this inclusion enhances the interaction children have with the book itself. This book is a charming reminiscence of events in Dominic and Ava’s lives, and it will inspire conversation about the migratory patterns of animals.


Felix loves animals, and he dreams of being a veterinarian one day. In his enthusiasm, Felix asks his parents for all manner of creatures, including both a dragon and a dinosaur. His parents are supportive of Felix’s interests, but they suggest instead going to the local animal shelter to select a smaller and more realistic pet. Upon arriving at the shelter, Felix is surrounded by an assortment of creatures who are looking for a forever home, but there is only one in particular that catches Felix’s eye. This humorous, rhyming picture book is a delightful story for young children to enjoy. Very limited text is used on each page, making the narrative immediately accessible for pre-readers as well as those closer to the age at which Felix is depicted. The text and illustrations have a strong connection to one another: as the images fill the backgrounds with saturated color, the words are carefully placed to become a part of the visual component of the book, as well. Varying fonts and letter sizes enhance the textual awareness readers experience, and the colorful, charming illustrations will draw in readers of all ages. Throughout the book, expressive facial expressions and frequent details support the narrative; additionally, lines of color are visible in each image and add dynamic texture to the illustrations. From one endpaper to the other, this story will capture readers’ attention, and the surprise ending will leave a grin on their faces. This is a fun and unexpected picture book to share with young children.


Franco loves cars, and he dreams of one day owning a red Ferrari of his very own. Whether playing with his toy cars or pretending to drive real ones, Franco lives for the feeling of being behind the wheel. One thing Franco does not like, however, is getting stuck at red lights. Going for a car ride with his mum begins as an enjoyable experience, but with each red traffic light, Franco’s patience wears thinner and thinner. Until, that is, Franco’s mother introduces him to the idea of the Green Light Fairy who can help move things along when the circumstances are right. This charming and fanciful story embraces the ubiquitous experience of feeling trapped by red traffic lights when out for a ride in the car. Cartoon-like illustrations depict Franco in his world, surrounded by cars and even riding in the front seat of one, helping to shift the gears along the way. Cheerful colors adorn each of the images, amplifying the sensation of calling upon a special fairy to fulfil Franco’s well-meaning request. A variety of font sizes are used throughout the story, adding a dynamic visual component to the text itself and increasing print awareness as the story progresses. Longer blocks of text appear on each page, but the story itself is somewhat shorter than most picture books, so the quantity of words is nonetheless accessible even to younger readers. With a touch of humor and whimsy, this lighthearted tale is a delightful story to share with young children who love both cars and the magic of the unexpected.


It is Leon’s first day of school, and he is feeling very unsure of himself. When he enters the classroom, he spies a classmate’s toy top unattended on a nearby desk. Leon likes the top so much, he tucks it in his pencil case before anyone notices him. And even though Leon’s friend becomes upset, Leon says nothing and keeps the toy for himself. Each day, Leon looks for more opportunities to take items of interest, but it is not until he himself loses a favorite object that he comes to realize how his actions have affected those around him. This picture book focuses heavily on the concept of empathy and honesty through the lens of a child who chooses to take others’ possessions without asking. For elementary school-aged students reading this story, the feeling of wanting what others have is recognizable, but it is rare to observe a child acting on those impulses. It is even rarer to observe a child come to realize the effects of his behavior and make amends—especially without the intervention of an adult—but that is what Leon does in this book. Though the writing could benefit from improvement, the text appears in loosely rhyming phrases that are nonetheless straightforward and clear in meaning. Colorful, computer rendered illustrations showcase the emotions of each character involved in this narrative and give newer readers visuals to aid in comprehension of the story, as well. Young readers will empathize with Leon’s desires and will learn from his mistakes as they engage with this short picture book.


Being transplanted to a new place is never easy, even for a Jacaranda tree. Brought as a seed from her South American home to one an entire ocean away in Australia, Jacaranda is the only tree of her kind in the town of Grafton. Loneliness causes Jacaranda to grow slowly, and her many differences alienate Jacaranda from the other flora and fauna around her. One day, the local birds decide to help spread Jacaranda’s seeds to add more Jacaranda trees to the neighborhood. And as time passes and more purple flowers fill the air, Grafton becomes a community of friends of all kinds who thrive in each other’s company. This lovely story reads as a fable, encouraging readers to come together and welcome every member of one’s environs with open arms. Based on the real town of Grafton in New South Wales, Australia, this book incorporates much of the flora and fauna found in this locale into both the text and the illustrations. Images of native birds and trees fill the backgrounds, and the sounds made by indigenous birds flavor the narrative. Presented in playful font and larger blocks of text, this book will appeal to elementary school-aged readers in both design and content. It will likely inspire further research about Grafton—no matter where in the world a reader happens to live—as well. Soft, fluid lines are used to create the images, lending a feeling of nostalgia and emotion to each one, and readers will enjoy matching the textual elements to their visual counterparts. Additionally, an author’s note at the end of the book provides helpful context for readers unfamiliar with Grafton and the impact the Jacaranda tree has made there. Heartfelt and endearing, this story is a good fit for families with a love of nature and community connection.


Though they can occasionally be elusive, dreams have the ability to create powerful imagery and experiences that stem from the depths of the reader’s imagination. One night, a furry creature named Ricky Jo begins dreaming, and the dream beckons him to leave the safety of his familiar home to explore the exciting possibilities outside. So, Ricky Jo bids farewell to his trusty stuffies and sets off, soon finding himself everywhere, from navigating a deep ocean from the deck of a boat to standing high atop a jagged mountain peak. Despite the fact that each locale is more exhilarating than the last, however, Ricky Jo ultimately seeks out the respite of his bed so he can fully rest and prepare for a new day. This charming, rhyming picture book examines several of the possibilities one can find within the vast expanse of dreamspace. Once the primary storytelling takes off, it appears in a parallel structure from one page to the next, giving young readers a predictable pattern to help them navigate the narrative with more confidence. Though the lines are not identical in meter, the rhymes provide a singsong quality to the text, making the story enjoyable to be read aloud to young children. Playful font is used throughout the book, and it is well-balanced alongside full-page, cartoon-like illustrations. These images dominate each page and utilize a friendly, accessible color palette that features Ricky Jo in a variety of locales. No matter what an individual’s interests may be, young readers will be inspired to reflect on their own dreams after observing Ricky Jo’s experiences. This brief, enjoyable picture book is a delightful addition to family bedtime rotations.

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