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The Picture Book Buzz

The Picture Book Buzz - Marvelous March 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. Each of these six books is stunning and absolutely worth a read.

To The Front!: Clara Barton Braves the Battle of Antietam by Claudia Friddell, illustrated by Christopher Cyr (Calkins Creek/Astra Books For Young Readers 3/1/2022) - Free verse narration blends with gripping quotations from Clara Barton to create a powerful and immersive biography. Risking capture and death, Clara heads to the front lines, feeding, mending, soothing soldiers where she could. Without being highly graphic, both Clara and Claudia convey to the the reader Clara's bravery, ingenuity, and compassion. A delightful afterword explores Clara's life before and after the Civil War, including her work as a suffragette and founder of the American Red Cross.

Synopsis: This powerful tribute to Civil War nurse Clara Barton and her heroic efforts during the Battle of Antietam reveals how she earned the name "The Angel of the Battlefield," and shows the beginnings of her journey as one of our country's greatest humanitarians and the founder of the American Red Cross.

During the Civil War, Clara Barton—one of the first women to receive permission to serve on a battlefield—snuck her supply wagon to the head of a ten-mile wagon train to deliver provisions to the Antietam Battlefield. On the bloodiest day in American history, Clara and her team of helpers sprang into action as they nursed the wounded and dying, cooked meals for soldiers, and provided doctors with desperately needed medical supplies and lanterns so they could operate through the night.

Author Claudia Friddell blends her words with Clara Barton’s firsthand account to capture the nurse’s brave actions, while Christopher Cyr’s dramatically accurate illustrations portray one of the most heroic women in history.

The Topsy-Turvy Bus by Anita Fitch Pazner, illustrated by Carolina Farías (Kar-Ben Publishing 3/1/2022) - based on real buses in Connecticut and Michigan, this primer on ways to reuse (vegetable oil), rethink (pesticide free food), recycle (bike powered blender) and renew (worm composting) introduces kids to ways to make the earth healthier. Includes directions for making a 2-litter bottle worm bin.

Synopsis: Reuse, recycle, renew, and rethink!

Climb aboard the Topsy-Turvy Bus with Maddy and Jake as it travels around the country teaching communities the importance of taking care of the earth and creating a better, cleaner, healthier world.

Based on a real Topsy-Turvy Bus created by Hazon, the largest Jewish environmental organization in North America.

Frank, Who Liked to Build: The Architecture of Frank Gehry by Deborah Blumenthal, illustrated by Maria Brzozowska (Kar-Ben Publishing 3/1/2022) - A great lyrical biography to encourage kids to imagine, doodle, dream, and create with any material they can find. I was glad the author's note included some images of the actual buildings, envisioning them from the illustrations was tough. But Frank's creativity, sources of his inspiration, and playfulness come through beautifully. After all, "dreamers keep dreaming. And playing."

Synopsis: One building looks like it's been wrapped in tinfoil. Another looks like it's buried under a pile of paint chips. Frank Gehry has been called "the most important architect of our age." As a child, his parents thought of him as nothing but a dreamer. But Frank kept dreaming and playing, following his passions and becoming an architect who created astounding buildings that to this day attract millions of visitors worldwide.

Mushroom Rain by Laura K. Zimmermann, illustrated by Jamie Green (Sleeping Bear Press 3/15/2022) - In this spectacular nonfiction, stunning images and beautifully lyrical text ("red octupus arms rise from the ground") highlight the amazing variety, growth habits, and smells (including coconut & burnt hair) of mushrooms. And look at who gathers them (besides humans), what actually happens when they disappear, and how they affect rain and the forest. Engaging back matter is written and illustrated like a field notebook.

Synopsis: What can smell like bubble gum, glow neon green at night, be poisonous and yet still eaten by humans, and even help create rain? The answer is mushrooms! From their hidden networks underground to the fruiting body above, mushrooms can do incredible things. But don't call them plants—mushrooms are fungi. They're more closely related to animals like you! Through lyrical text and colorful, detailed artwork, the wonderful, mysterious, and sometimes bizarre world of mushrooms is explored. Back matter includes a glossary, additional mushroom facts, and a science activity.

A Storm of Horses: The Story of Artist Rosa Bonheur by Ruth Sanderson (Crocodile Books 3/15/2022) - An engaging biography of a French realistic painter Rosa Bonheur, captured in Ruth Sanderson's gorgeously detailed oil painting illustrations. Wrapping horse imagery throughout, Sanderson offers a portrait of an unconventional, talented artist who "galloped into the world," bucked much of societies expectations, steered her life toward creating award winning realistic paintings, and "simply charged ahead" pouring her love of horses and other animals onto her canvases. It includes a wonderful, detailed look at the steps Rosa took to create her large mural and back matter detailing more of her life and Ruth's connection to her.

Synopsis: An inspiring picture book about Rosa Bonheur, the most famous female painter of her century, published to coincide with the 200th anniversary of the artist's birth.

In a stunning ode to underrepresented women everywhere, award-winning illustrator Ruth Sanderson tells the untold story of French artist Rosa Bonheur in this picture book biography.

Rosa Bonheur was born in 1822 in France at a time when young women had limited options beyond being a wife and mother. But Rosa wouldn’t stand for this. She wore pants, rode horses astride, and often broke society’s rules. She wanted to be a famous painter just like her father. Female artists at the time were encouraged to paint domestic scenes of children and family, but Rosa was determined to capture the unbridled wild beauty of horses.

Her masterpiece The Horse Fair was eight feet high and sixteen feet wide. Rosa went on to become the most celebrated artist of her time with paintings purchased by art collectors, museums, and galleries around the world. With the decline in popularity of realistic painting, Rosa’s trailblazing story was almost forgotten.

Revel at the bravery and fortitude of young Rosa as you take in Ruth Sanderson’s immaculate rendition of her life and artistry.

Bharatanatyam in Ballet Shoes by Mahak Jain (Author), Anu Chouhan (Annick Press 3/29/2022) - Paro's excitement to learn ballet is overshadowed by her nerves, unfamiliarity with the dance, and her previous training in Bharatanatyam with her mom. Unable to reconcile the two dance styles, Paro decides to only dance ballet. Until her mother and ballet teacher prove that the styles are not mutually exclusive. Wonderful backmatter chronicles a real life interaction of Rukmini Devi Arundale (Bharatanatyam icon) and Prima ballerina Anna Pavlova and the ways cultures can collaborate and learn from each other.

Synopsis: A girl explores her love of dancing and her cultural identity in a lively picture book with echoes of the real-life collaboration between Bharatanatyam icon Rukmini Devi Arundale and ballerina Anna Pavlova.

Paro comes from a dancing family. At home, she dances Bharatanatyam with her mom, and now she’s excited to learn ballet. But what if she can’t dance like the other kids in her class? Ballerinas move like fairies, while Bharatanatyam dancers seem like queens. Paro can’t be both...can she? Anu Chouhan’s vibrant, energetic illustrations emphasize themes of creative flexibility and navigating the intersections of different cultural identities.


Maria Marshall

 Photograph © A. Marshall

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