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I really enjoyed the soft and colorful illustrations in Joy even before reading the story, but I loved the story itself just as much. 

Fern's Nanna has been acting tired and less energetic lately -- it seems the joy has gone out of her life. Without getting into all the "adulty" explanations about aging and mental health, we simply watch Fern as she tries to physically capture joy in her determined, child-like way. As the reader likely expects, this doesn't work, so Fern tells her Nanna about her troubles. She learns that she can help bring joy to her Nanna by just being herself.

I loved the sweetness and concern that Fern displays for her Nanna, and that in the end, even though she can't fix all of her Nanna's problems (which aren't explained here), she can still help her to experience some joy in the midst of hardship. A very sweet and encouraging book.

(Thanks to NetGalley for the review copy.)

Format: Kindle
Author: Corrinne Averiss
Illustrator: Isabelle Follath
Pages: 32
Content Advisory: None

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James Herriot is unparalleled when it comes to stories of domesticated animals -- whether dogs and cats in homes or various farm animals -- and his keen observations and clear love and respect for animals.

While the stories in James Herriot's Treasury for Children are fictional, all of them feel to me as if they easily could be true, and no doubt he drew heavily on his veterinary experiences in describing these unique animals and their amusing and tender escapades. 

Herriot manages to capture the human-animal bond, even with farm animals, evoking compassion, joy, and sometimes sadness, without sentimentalizing or emotionally manipulating the reader.

I grew up reading "Oscar, Cat-about-Town" and "The Christmas Day Kitten," both of which are included here, and was also introduced to some new favorites, such as "Blossom Comes Home" and "Smudge, the Little Lost Lamb." The illustrations perfectly capture the animals, people, and the views of the beautiful British countryside.

Because Herriot is British and uses some words that might be unfamiliar to American children (or perhaps it's a generational thing as well), and at times can be a bit wordy, some of these stories will probably lose the interest of preschoolers. But it's worth hanging on and trying them again later, because the best animal stories are really for all ages and have no need to be written off as "for little kids."

Format: Hardcover
Author: James Herriot
Illustrators: Ruth Brown, Peter Barrett
Pages: 260
Content Advisory: As noted, a few stories are a bit sad.

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Mister Seahorse struck me as kind of repetitive when I first read it (and it is), but my two-year-old really likes it and requests it often, so it's grown on me. 

The illustrations are amazing as usual, with bright, nontraditionally colored seahorses. The narrative itself is interspersed with some fish that "hide" behind nearly-transparent pages, which is fun for kids. 

The other great thing about this story is that it focuses on fathers in the animal kingdom. Even though the fish here are anthropomorphized enough to talk to each other, they are still representatives of actual fathers in the animal kingdom who take care of their own eggs/children. I think this is much needed in the often mother-dominated depictions of animals and their babies in children's literature (and everywhere else). 

Format: Board book
Author/Illustrator: Eric Carle
Pages: 34
Content Advisory: None

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I hadn't thought about it much before this, but many of the books of animal poetry I've read tend to focus on animals in their more rugged, wild environments, or perhaps farm animals -- but certainly in rural settings. Hidden City is a bit different, providing factual, descriptive poems about wild animals that live near people or make their habitats in populated areas. 

From back yards and living rooms to dark alleys and skyscrapers, this book highlights the presence of animals of all sizes in these urban spaces, and gives a straightforward poem about each one, highlighting something that it does. 

Whether reading about migrating geese that have stopped for a rest, moss in sidewalk cracks, or raccoons scrounging through a trash can, you certainly don't need to live in a city to appreciate these short glimpses into the lives of many different types of wildlife. The full-page illustrations are full of color and texture, making this a wonderful book to share with young children, and help them appreciate not only poetry, but the animals and other bits of nature that are all around them no matter where they go.

Format: Hardcover
Author: Sarah Grace Tuttle
Illustrator: Amy Shimler-Safford
Pages: 48
Content Advisory: None

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I remember reading The Spirit of St. Louis when I was high-school-aged and really enjoying it, despite its 500+ pages. Even though Lindbergh's primary topic in writing it was his historic first flight across the Atlantic Ocean, he managed to capture the monotonous moments of flight but also included enough other stories of his life that it wasn't boring.

Flight reminded me of the more dramatic and interesting parts of Lindbergh's book, since it is a narrative of that flight distilled for children. The book focuses on the long flight, bit by bit, emphasizing the difficulties, the solitude, and the length of time that Lindbergh had to stay awake in order to complete the flight. You feel like you're flying right along with him, and celebrating with him too when it's all over. The grand, expressive illustrations really aid in the drama of the story. Some children are quite fascinated by airplanes, so this particular bit of history can be very eye-opening, especially as it focuses more on the man in the cockpit rather than the machine itself.

There is no map in the book, so it might be helpful to read with one on hand if this is being used for school, since several different places are named. 


Format: Hardcover
Author: Robert Burleigh
Illustrator: Mike Wimmer
Pages: 32
Content Advisory: None

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