Spreading their wings
Four recent picture books
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And I Paint It
Henriette was the oldest of five children and an aspiring young artist seeking to follow in the footsteps of her father, illustrator N.C. Wyeth. The story, told in lyrical prose, follows Henriette as she steals away from four busy siblings and goes with her father, who teaches her to observe and paint the nature and landscapes of the family’s Chadds Ford, Pa., property. Illustrator Amy June Bates’ stunning watercolor spreads and pencil sketches are worth lingering over. Kephart’s afterword recounts Henriette’s artistic career, leaving readers wanting to know more. (Ages 5-8)
Ten Little Dumplings
Villagers consider a family fortunate to have 10 sons, whom the parents call little dumplings. The boys do everything together, earning praise for their successes. In a surprising twist, readers learn of a little sister, hidden amid Cindy Wume’s illustrations on previous pages. Alongside her brothers, she studies and discovers her unique talent. She marries and has her own little dumpling, a daughter. In the author’s note, Fan writes that the story derived from her father’s Taiwanese family. In cultures that prized sons, she wonders, “who is left out of the stories we are told and why?” (Ages 4-8)
In a small Jewish village in Russia, Nathan is always singing. Illustrator Maya Ish-Shalom’s bold hues depict Nathan’s family scraping together money for him to study opera in Italy. Nathan boards the wrong ship, landing in New York, where he attracts attention as a street singer and earns a spot on Broadway. He marries and earns enough to bring his family to America. Schubert’s grandfather inspired the story. In the author’s note, she describes how anti-Semitism in Russia during the Pale of Settlement prompted many Jews to immigrate to America, and in Nathan’s case, to realize a dream. (Ages 4-8)
Out Into the Big Wide Lake
Harbridge bases the story’s protagonist, Kate, on his sister, who has Down syndrome. When Kate spends the summer at her grandparents’ lakeside home, Grandma teaches her to operate the boat. She joins Grandpa, a storekeeper, on his daily boat trips to deliver groceries to the neighbors’ docks. Grandpa’s sudden illness prompts Kate to put her new skills to the test. Young readers will resonate with Josée Bisaillon’s delicate illustrations and the book’s gentle message about a child stepping out of her comfort zone. (Ages 4-8)
How Much Is a Little Boy Worth? (Tyndale, 2022) is a follow-up to a 2019 children’s book written for young girls by Rachael Denhollander, a child sexual abuse survivor, attorney, and advocate. Denhollander authored this new title (which releases March 8) with her husband, Jacob. “The titular question of this book is one that every boy and every man will answer,” they write in an opening letter to readers. The Denhollanders, who have four children, convey a life-giving message to young boys about their inherent worth as image bearers. Soft illustrations from Marcin Piwowarski portray boys accompanied by parents or friends in various settings—scoring a goal, climbing a tree, scooping sand at the beach, or stargazing over the campfire. Its simple text reassures little boys that their value does not come from winning, achievements, status, or power. It also reminds them to speak up when something is wrong. Parents reading this book aloud may find the truths in it speak to their souls, too. —M.J.
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