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the wolf, the duck & the mouse

“Oh woe!  Oh doom!”  If only all problems could be solved with “a hunk of good cheese, a flagon of wine and some beeswax candles.”  Hilarious and ridiculous, always an excellent combination.  For those of you in want of another brilliant Mac Barnett/Jon Klassen collaboration, you'll eat this one up.

The Wolf, the Duck & the Mouse was written by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jon Klassen and published by Candlewick Press.  Here's a book trailer for it.


the snow lion

Probably the loveliest, most comforting book we've read all year.  Caro and her mum move to a new house at the top of a hill.  Caro is a little sad, lonely and reluctant to go out and explore her new environs.  But in the quiet of her house, a new friend appears just when she needs one most.  Both words and pictures are just the right amount of soft, magical and heartfelt.  If you buy one book this year, let this be it.

The Snow Lion was written by Jim Helmore, illustrated by Richard Jones and published by Simon & Schuster Children's UK.


the teacher's pet

Things go completely awry when the pet in Mr. Stricter’s classroom—a tiny tadpole named Bruno—strangely grows into a huge beast-like creature.  And worst of all, he has no manners or sense of propriety.  He consumes the children's homework and school supplies, smashes the classroom furniture, snores during silent reading and hogs the swings.  Too enthralled with the idea of having a pet, Mr. Stricter is not at all concerned about Bruno’s ghastly ways—in fact, he adores them and dotes on Bruno.  It’s up to his students to intervene before things go too far.  And that they do—with a dash of creativity and ingenuity, they take matters into their own hands.  A hilarious story that would be a perfect read-aloud for the first week of school—guaranteed to ease back-to-school jitters.

Save & CloseThe Teacher’s Pet was written by Anica Mrose Rissi, illustrated by Zachariah OHora and published by Disney Hyperion Books.


book of bones

There’s no argument that Gabrielle Balkan is a master of nonfiction for kids.  It takes a special writer to not only get the job done but craft an engaging and captivating book that keeps kids turning the pages with rapt attention.  Here’s yet another superb book she just put out into the world along with illustrator Sam Brewster—Book of Bones.

Book of Bones is fascinating.  It presents sets of clues to ten different notable and record-breaking animal bones—the thinnest, fastest-growing, spikiest and heaviest, to name a few.  After readers guess the creature to whom the bone belongs, they turn the page and see the animal in their natural habitat and get to learn about its behaviors and the special functions of its bones.  A great feature of the pages of the book—the skeletal structure in each animal has a special texture that's palpable and makes it stand out (sort of like the reader has x-ray vision).  Can you guess which cold-blooded animal has more than a thousand bones in its body?  A thoughtfully written and standout piece of nonfiction, the kind we've come to expect from Gabrielle.  Sam Brewster did an amazing job with the illustrations and we're looking forward to seeing more of their collaborations in the future.

Book of Bones: 10 Record-Breaking Animals was written by Gabrielle Balkan, illustrated by Sam Brewster and published by Phaidon.


the gritterman

"Sometimes it feels like I'm the only person awake in the whole country.  People might find that a lonely thought. Not me.  Being alone and loneliness aren't the same thing."

Some books bring us closer to experiences we would never have otherwise.  For me, The Gritterman is one of those books.  It's about an old man who comes to terms with ending a job that he's had his whole life—clearing snow and gritting paths, pavement and roads in the dark, blue-black hours of winter nights.  He goes out for his last night of work on Christmas Eve.  The gritterman's world is frigid, snowy, dimly lit, perpetually dank and clammy—but familiar and embraced by him.  He loves it and is heartbroken to leave it.  The narrative is honest, soulful and melancholic with funny, cheeky moments throughout.

One of the best things about The Gritterman is that its author, who's also a musician, Orlando Weeks (formerly of the Maccabees), put out a companion album with music and songs written and performed by him and a narration of the story by Paul Whitehouse.  It's available on iTunes.

If you love quiet, beautiful stories, seek out this one from across the pond.  Far and away one of our favorite books published this year.  The Gritterman was written and illustrated by Orlando Weeks and published by Particular Books.