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The Picture Book Buzz

The Picture Book Buzz - Fabulous February Books

There was NO way I could highlight all the wonderful authors and illustrators and their amazing books which have released this month. So I decided to do a quick shout out for a few of the books I wish I had space for. These four books are tied together through an underlying thread of "following one's dream." Each of these books is stunning and absolutely worth a read.

Born Hungry: Julia Child Becomes "the French Chef" by Alex Prud'homme, illustrated by Sarah Green (Calkins Creek/Astra Publishing House 2/8/2022) - I love that this was written by Julia's grandnephew and epitomizes her own mantra of finding and pursuing one's passion and the sheer joy to be found in cooking. Although through much of her early life she loved to eat, she was never encouraged to cook. In fact, her first recipe created a stinky shark repellant. After she married Paul and moved to Paris, her hunger turned toward learning to cook a proper meal. As the sole woman in her class, she graduated Le Cordon Bleu cooking school. Deliciously illustrated, it is hard to read without getting hungry. It is a lively, loving tribute to a remarkable woman who with humility and humor changed the way America cooks. Continuing where the book ends, the back matter details her culinary exploits, awards, and accomplishments and includes some wonderful photographs of Julia and one of her recipes.

Synopsis: Julia Child was born hungry, but she was not born a chef. In fact, Julia didn’t discover her passion for cooking until she had a life-changing luncheon in France and became determined to share her newfound love of food with everyone.

In Paris, Julia devoured recipe books, shopped in outdoor markets, consumed all kinds of foods, and whipped through culinary school. And although she wasn't always successful in the kitchen, she was determined to "master the art" of French cooking. Through perseverance and grit, Julia became a chef who shared her passion with the world, making cooking fun, and turning every meal into a special event.

Alex Prud'homme's firsthand knowledge paired with Sarah Green's vibrant and energetic illustrations showcases Julia's life and celebrates her enduring legacy.

Nellie vs. Elizabeth: Two Daredevil Journalists' Breakneck Race around the World by Kate Hannigan, illustrated by Rebecca Gibbon (Calkins Creek/Astra Publishing House 2/15/2022) - The race is on. Two female journalists, the “eager and energetic” Nellie Bly versus the “refined and dignified” Elizabeth Bisland, race to circumnavigate the globe in less than Jules Verne's famous 80 days. This book captures the up and downs (discoveries, delays, and possible intrigue) as one woman heads east and one west. Quotations from the women, newspapers, and even Jules Verne, combined with recognizable landmarks, and a wonderful ending note about other female journalists makes this a delightful biography and a fun adventure story.

Synopsis: In this real-life adventure, daredevil and groundbreaking journalists Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland race against each other–and the clock–as they circle the globe by ship, train, and foot. Join these two stereotype-shattering reporters as they prove that not only is traveling around the world possible, but that women are just as curious, capable, and courageous as any man.

Nellie Bly was an energetic and eager reporter, but she wasn't able to think of a good story for her editors. Wishing she was on the other end of the earth, Nellie had an inspiration–she would travel around the world, just like in the fictional adventure book Around the World in Eighty Days. When a fellow journalist, Elizabeth Bisland, heard about Nellie's plans, she decided to up the stakes–by beating Nellie in her own race!

This exciting American history story about two pioneering women who paved the way for equality will inspire young readers.

Ablaze with Color: A Story of Painter Alma Thomas by Jeanne Walker Harvey, illustrated by Loveis Wise (Harper Collins 2/22/2022) - A vibrant biography of Alma Thomas, the first Black woman with a solo exhibition at New York City’s Whitney Museum and the Corcoran Gallery of Art, and artwork displayed in the White House. Following the influences of nature, segregation, and the joy of creating throughout Alma's life, this book explores the new style she created - "Circles and stripes./ Dashes and Dabs./ Ablaze with color" - after her long career as an art teacher. With illustrations which mirror Alma's style, a creative timeline, and additional resources, this is a wonderful introduction to an amazing artist.

Synopsis: Meet an incredible woman who broke down barriers throughout her whole life and is now known as one of the most preeminent painters of the 20th century. Told from the point of view of young Alma Thomas, readers can follow along as she grows into her discovery of the life-changing power of art.

As a child in Georgia, Alma Thomas loved to spend time outside, soaking up the colors around her. And her parents filled their home with color and creativity despite the racial injustices they faced. After the family moved to Washington DC, Alma shared her passion for art by teaching children. When she was almost seventy years old, she focused on her own artwork, inspired by nature and space travel.

In this celebration of art and the power of imagination, Jeanne Walker Harvey and Loveis Wise tell the incredible true story of Alma Thomas, the first Black woman to have a solo exhibition at the Whitney Museum in New York City and to have her work chosen for the White House collection. With her bold and vibrant abstract paintings, Alma set the world ablaze with color.

Mardi Gras Almost Didn't Come This Year by Kathy Z. Price, illustrated by Carl Joe Williams (Atheneum Books for Young Readers 2/22/2022) - Using a musically, lyrical text, written in a New Orleans vernacular, the book begins with the arrival of Hurricane Katrina -

"Wind threw Water into Sky,

snatched the Blue out.

Blue sputtered, then died.

The levees cried."

With their father working hard and their mother, once “the most fancy-dancy of the ball,” lacking the spirit or desire for music, Lala and her brother Babyboy fear they will never again get to celebrate Mardi Gras. The powerful and poignant mixed media illustrations stunningly amplify both the kid's delight in music and the devastation seen and felt throughout New Orleans. This is a wonderful book celebrating the resilience of a community, the importance of music and traditions to keep us grounded, and offering a seed of hope for the future.

Synopsis: In this gorgeous and lyrical picture book, a family finds hope and healing in a Mardi Gras celebration after Hurricane Katrina changed their world.

This vibrant and moving story shows a family struggling to rebuild their home and their spirits following Hurricane Katrina. A young brother and sister aren’t sure how their displaced family can move on until one very special Mardi Gras gives them and their parents new hope and belief in a beautiful future.


Maria Marshall

 Photograph © A. Marshall

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