A picture book menagerie | WORLD
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A picture book menagerie

CHILDREN’S BOOKS | Reviews of four picture books

A picture book menagerie
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Jessica Lanan
(Roaring Brook Press 2023)

Although spiders may cause some people to recoil, author and illustrator Jessica Lanan encourages readers to behold them with new eyes by inviting children to spend A Day in the Life of a Backyard Jumping Spider. As the book follows a little spider named Jumper who hunts for food and hides from predators in a garden, Lanan weaves in fascinating details about the unique attributes that equip jumping spiders to survive. Ink, watercolor, and gouache illustrations vibrantly capture the energy and movement of Jumper and her world—including her eventual success catching a fly for dinner. The endnotes offer more information about jumping spiders and a springboard from which to discuss the wonders of creation with children. Ages 4-8

Hidden Hope

Elisa Boxer
(Abrams 2023)

When the Nazis’ occupation of France began, Jewish teenager Judith Geller found a safe hiding place for her family, joined the French Resistance, and assumed a false name so she could help others in upending the Nazis’ plans. Author Elisa Boxer recounts how Geller, pretending to be a social worker for children, brazenly bicycled all over Paris smuggling fake identity papers inside a hollowed-out duck toy. Illustrator Amy June Bates uses a brooding color palette to convey the dark and tense world Geller navigated. The concluding author’s and artist’s notes share more details about Geller’s life and work with the French Resistance, as well as photos of the actual duck toy she used to hide documents. Ages 6-9


Michelle Markel
(Chronicle Books 2023)

While families may be familiar with the prestigious Caldecott Medal that’s awarded annually to the most distinguished American picture book, they might not know the story of its namesake: Randolph Caldecott. As a boy, Caldecott loved watching and then drawing animals in action. He was determined to be the best artist he could be and developed a unique style that “burst with personality” and life, standing in stark contrast to the static and rigid illustrations common in children’s publications of that era. His work forged a new way of illustrating children’s stories. Barbara McClintock’s ink and watercolor illustrations give a nod to the nostalgia of Caldecott’s own drawings, a few of which are reproduced in the book. Ages 5-8

Moving the Millers’ Minnie Moore Mine Mansion

Dave Eggers
(Candlewick 2023)

This story opens by proclaiming, “Like all of the best stories, this takes place in Idaho.” Dave Eggers’ wry humor infuses the subsequent pages as he spins what at first seems like a tall tale about widow Annie Miller moving her lavish Victorian home from town to the country so she can raise pigs. A work crew numbered the stones of the house’s foundation, replaced the stones with logs, then rolled the whole house 4 miles down the road—all while the Millers still lived inside during the monthlong move. The book, which features Júlia Sardà’s sepia-toned illustrations, is based on a true story, and an online search of the Idaho State Historical Society reveals pictures of the real home. Ages 4-8

Kristin Chapman

Kristin is the children's book page editor and an editorial assistant for WORLD Magazine. She graduated from two World Journalism Institutes, including one in Asheville and one in Austin. Kristin resides with her husband, Jarrett, and their three children in New Castle, Pa.


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