Picture Books · reviews


When my kids and I first read Bloom , I was entranced by the unusual storyline. A kingdom of glass is falling apart and an “ordinary” girl named Genevieve, is sent to find a magic fairy to save it. The fairy, Bloom, presents her with mud, and teaches the girl to make bricks and mortar. Geneivieve learns what she can do with her own hands and hard work. She then returns to the glass kingdom and rebuilds it with bricks.

Not only is the prose great, the illustrations in Bloom are lovely and have so much energy. Even the text is alive. The words move; get larger, smaller, swing across the page. This gives the story energy, and adds depth to the different characters. It’s also fun for kids to read.

I love that the lessons of this story are that magic is great but ingenuity and hard work are better, getting dirty is okay, and there are no ordinary girls, only extraordinary ones. Bloom has a permanent place on our favorites shelf, and I hope it finds its way to yours.

by Doreen Cronin (author) and David Small (illustrator)

Chapter Books

Rowan’s favorite early chapter books

My daughter, Rowan (7 years old), loves to read books about friendship. If magic, crafting or humor are thrown in, even better! She is my oldest, and I admit I get a little nostalgic when I think of the first time we read a Mercy Watson or Princess in Black book. Here is a list of her favorite early chapter book series. We hope your kids enjoy them too!

The Princess in Black
by Shannon Hale & Dean Hale, illustrated by LeUyen Pham

A Princess who becomes a super hero and battles monsters? Yeah, it doesn’t get much better than that. Although this series seems very girly, when Rowan was in Kindergarten, her entire class really loved these adventures and bright illustrations.

Mercy Watson
by Kate Dicamillo, illustrated by Chris Van Dusen

An early reader with illustrations on almost every page, Mercy Watson is a great introduction to chapter books. Mercy is a pig who seems to find herself the center of many funny situations. She lives with the Watsons, who treat her as their child more than their pet, even allowing her to sleep in their bed!

Zoe and Sassafrass
story by Asia Citro, pictures by Marion Lindsay

A young science loving girl learns that she and her mom can see magical creatures. The series follows her adventures in helping these creatures using scientific methods. These books are cute, quirky and fun. They have the added bonus of an African American lead character, a scientist Mom, and a stay-at-home Dad – all of which we don’t see enough of in kids books.

Violet Mackerel
by Anna Bradford, illustrated by Elanna Allen

Rowan loves this Australian series about a sweet girl named Violet, who thinks that small acts often produce big results. I love that this series focuses on friendship and kindness. Violet’s mom is a single parent who supports her three kids with her hand crafted goods, which she sells at local stores and a weekly market. Simple and non-materialistic, Violet Mackerel will find her way into your heart too.

Craftily Ever After
by Martha Maker, illustrated by Xindi Yan

Rowan is very into crafting and art, so this series about four friends with different crafty talents is a favorite. Each book features a different craft, and has instructions to make it yourself in the back of the book. In the first book two friends learn that being best friends doesn’t mean that you can’t make new friends. Such an important lesson for kids and adults!

Owl Diaries
by Rebecca Elliot

In diary format with cute color illustrations, a fun, energetic owl named Eva shares with us her life in Tree-topolis. Rowan loves the words that are “owl-ed” like: owl-tastic, owl-mazing and hoot-ful. In each book, Eva learns that problems are easier to solve when she and her friends work together.

Picture Books

Animal Adventures

My Top Nonfiction Animal Books

My son loves animals, like really LOVES animals. If you too, have an animal lover in your house, these nonfiction books will soon become favorites. Each book has beautiful illustrations, great content, and offers an unique look at the animal (and bird) world.

The Big Book of Beasts by Yuval Zommer
A larger book that talks about the non-friendly wild mammals of the animal kingdom. Each animal page starts with a question such as “How does a beast protect itself?” “How grumpy is a baboon?” and “Why is an armadillo covered in armor?” Your wild one will love the humor and fun facts.

Table of contents

Atlas of Animal Adventures
Illustrated by Lucy Letherland
Written by Rachel Williams and Emily Hawkins

Another large book with great illustrations. There are maps of the continents and select animals that live there, as well as detailed scenes and information about each animal. Two of my favorites are the barn owls in France, which shows owls swooping over fields of lavender, and the Giant Pandas of China. (below)

Giant Pandas, China

Beautiful Birds
by Jean Roussen and Emmanuelle Walker

An alphabet book of birds. I love the bright colors of the illustrations and the fun verse.

The Illustrated Compendium of Amazing Animal Facts
by Maja Safstrom
Sketches of animals and accompanying information, that you might not know, make this book a keeper for kids who can’t get enough animal facts. It also looks like a field journal, which appeals to my young explorers.

Sloths are so slow...

A Zeal of Zebras, An Alphabet of Collected Nouns
by Woop Studios
An unusual alphabet book. You start with An Aurora of Polar Bears and finish with a Zeal of Zebras. One of my favorites is An Implausibilty of Gnus. Each animal is accompanied by an illustration and a couple paragraphs.

An implausibility of Gnus
Picture Books

Sleep Like A Tiger

Sleep Like a Tiger is one of our family’s favorite books. The gorgeous multimedia illustration and the gentle storyline grabs me every time. This is a great book to read out loud.

I love that the little girl doesn’t want to go to bed. (We’ve all heard that one!) So her parents say she can stay up all night long. But first, she should brush her teeth, put on her pjs, and snuggle down in her bed. Once in bed, she asks if animals sleep too. Her parents assure her that everything sleeps; otters, her dog and cat, bats, whales, snails, grizzly bears and tigers.

My children like to follow the little girl’s routine, stretch their toes down into their warm bed, curl up like a snail and finally: sleep like a tiger.

Sleep Like a Tiger
written by Mary Logue
illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski