In Childrens' Books
It’s been about 10 months since I wrote a blog post about my father-in-law, who passed away in August 2015. It was a happily therapeutic reminiscence of all things Pop-Pop as we made our way into the holidays without him. And then, for some reason, I just didn’t feel like blogging for awhile – a long while as it turned out. My guess is I was doing some grieving during those 10 months….for him and for all the things he was to our family. I’m going to ask my friend Madeleine about that – I’m pretty sure she’ll know the answer!
But, in the meantime, I’m ready and excited to blog again! I have so many children’s books to share. And recently a friend asked if I would consider including favorite adult books, and so you will find some of those, too.
I cannot think of a better season – one my favorites – to begin again.
Outdoors is one of my favorite places to be. Walking is one of my favorite things to do. Last weekend my husband, Jim (my most favorite person) and I took a walk.
As I begin each of my walks, I remind myself how lucky I am to be walking, how grateful I am for whatever the weather du jour, and how humbled I am as I enjoy the sights, sounds and smells of the season. It seems so many of my memories are triggered – and vividly! – by a scent or smell.
Oh, and fall never disappoints!
You can’t beat the wonderful mingled scent of pinecones, brown leaves, acorns, mums and marigolds! We even came upon a lawn covered in cedar chips, and as odd as it seemed, it did remind me of the small caged pets we had – a couple of hamsters, and a very loquacious Guinea Pig named Buck! Jim swore Buck started his “talking” as soon as he heard my voice! Well, you know I was the one who fed him and kept his cage clean, so no surprise there.
I also love the shade and shadows of autumn. To me, the shadows seem darker and the shade they create seems cooler, carrying with it the nip we come to expect (and love!) in the fall.
Some of these children’s books are stories of fall and some are just fun ones I’ve come across over these last months of my hiatus. You’ll also find, as promised, a couple that are just for you, should you be looking for book to cozy up with as our clocks “fall back” on Sunday, November 6.

Wonderfall by Michael Hall

WONDERFALL follows a single tree through the changing of the seasons. People, animals, and vehicles pass in front of the tree, celebrating holidays, playing in its leaves, and getting ready for winter. Fifteen combined words (thankful + fall = thankFALL, plentiful + fall = plentiFALL) underscore the themes and concepts of the season, while the main attraction—the beautiful tree—drops acorns, loses leaves, and provides food and a home for a pair of scurrying squirrels.

A Pipkin of Pepper by Helen Cooper

Duck, Cat, and Squirrel, the three animal friends from PUMPKIN SOUP, are out of salt, a key ingredient of their special recipe. Duck insists upon coming along with Cat and Squirrel on the shopping trip to the city. It’s his first visit, and he’s a little scared, but he forgets everything when he spots a pepper store. What if they bought a pipkin of pepper to add to the soup? When he turns around to tell Cat and Squirrel about his great idea, he realizes they’re gone!

Even Monsters Need Haircuts by Matthew McElligott

Just before midnight, on the night of a full moon, a young barber stays out past his bedtime to go to work. Although his customers are mostly regulars, they are anything but normal – after all, even monsters need haircuts. Business is steady all night, and this barber is prepared for anything with his scissors, rotting tonic, horn polish, and stink wax. It’s a tough job, but someone’s got to help these creatures maintain their ghoulish good looks. This is a hilarious story about a boy who follows in his father’s footsteps . . . in his own monstrously unique way.

Aw,  Nuts! by Rob McKlurken

Squirrel sets off on a chase after the perfect acorn in debut author-illustrator Rob McClurkan’s picture book Aw, Nuts! With bold, graphic art, Squirrel will have young readers laughing out loud on every page, eager to find out what will happen next. Squirrel loves acorns, so when he spots the perfect one, he must have it! But it bounces away. . . . So he jumps into a taxi, but the taxi runs out of gas. Aw, nuts! He bounces on a pogo stick, but it lands in a hole. Aw, nuts! He hops on a boat, gets shipped away, hitches a ride on a little girl’s bike, and more! Will Squirrel be able to catch up to the most delicious acorn ever?

Dragon was Terrible by Kelly DiPucchio

We all know dragons are terrible, but this one is especially terrible. He scribbles in books. He steals candy from baby unicorns. He even burps in church. Seriously, who does that? Dragon, that’s who. The king, the knights, and the villagers are desperate to take down this beast once and for all. But sometimes it’s up to the unlikeliest of heroes to tame a dragon this terrible.

A Story for Bear by Jim LaMarche

When a young bear finds a scrap of an old letter, he is so curious about the mysterious marks that he searches out their source–a cabin in the woods. There he meets a young woman and is mesmerized by the sound of her voice. Though he cannot understand her words, he returns every day to hear the woman’s stories of sailors, goddesses, and far-off lands.

A Whiff of Pine and a Hint of Skunk by Deborah Ruddell

In a watery mirror the rugged raccoon admires his face by the light of the moon: the mysterious mask, the whiskers beneath, the sliver of cricket still stuck in his teeth. Take a lighthearted romp through four seasons in the forest with these whimsical poems. Marvel at the overachieving beaver, applaud the race-winning snail and its perfect trail of slime, or head off to be pampered at a squirrel spa. Warning: Deborah Ruddell’s quirky cast of animal characters and Joan Rankin’s deliciously daffy pictures will cause giggles. The woods have never been so much fun!

Fall Mixed-Up by Bob Raczka

Rhyming verse enumerates some of the characteristics and pleasures of fall, except that things are a bit topsy-turvy: “Bears gather nuts / Geese hibernate. / Squirrels fly south in / big figure eights.” Illustrations rendered in warm colors capture the silliness of the brief text. Kids will have fun following the final instructions to “Go back and find all the / things that aren’t right.”

Waiting for Winter by Sebastian Meschenmoser

Informed that snow is coming, “White and wet and cold and soft,” young Squirrel vows not to miss this new experience. Fearful that he may fall asleep while waiting, he and his friends try exercise and singing; finally, they set off in search of the elusive white stuff, mistakenly imagining the forest covered with discarded toothbrushes, old tin cans, and abandoned socks. At long last the predicted precipitation arrives, blanketing the forest in a luscious whiteness that enables Squirrel and his friends to construct a snowman. Meschenmoser’s sketch-pad colored-pencil artwork features mostly browns and grays until a wash of blue is added along with the arrival of snow. Squirrel’s impatient and exuberant personality is naturally well suited to young listeners, who will giggle appreciatively as he rushes frenetically from branch to branch.

Turkey Trouble by Wendi Silvano

Hold onto your drumsticks, Turkey’s in trouble! As Thanksgiving approaches, Turkey fears that he will be the centerpiece of the holiday meal. Thus begins his quest for the perfect disguise so he won’t be found when the time arrives. He ties a brush on the back of his head and wears a tiny saddle because surely no one would eat a horse for dinner. But the animals still recognize him. He tries to become a cow, a pig, a sheep, and a rooster. He does not look like any of them. When he hears Farmer Jake tell his wife that if they can’t find the turkey, maybe they should eat the rooster for dinner, the protagonist comes up with the perfect ruse.

The Great Thanksgiving Escape by Mark Fearing

A hilarious, kid-friendly take on Thanksgiving — full of family, food, and lots of fun! It’s another Thanksgiving at Grandma’s. Gavin expects a long day of boredom and being pestered by distantly related toddlers, but his cousin Rhonda has a different idea: make a break for it — out of the kids’ room to the swing set in the backyard! Gavin isn’t so sure, especially when they encounter vicious guard dogs (in homemade sweaters), a hallway full of overly affectionate aunts, and worse yet, the great wall of butts! Will they manage to avoid the obstacles and find some fun before turkey time? Or will they be captured before they’ve had a taste of freedom?

Now, Some Recommendations Just For You!

A Fall of Marigolds by Susan Meissner

*Starred Review* Taryn Michaels specializes in hard-to-find patterns at an Upper West Side fabric shop. She is haunted by her failure to find a match for a scarf covered in bright marigolds, the same scarf she was holding when the Twin Towers fell in 2001, killing her husband. Unbeknownst to Taryn, the scarf began its life in New York on Ellis Island in 1911, when a very recently widowed Welshman carried it into the scarlet-fever ward of nurse Clara Wood. Clara, like Taryn, is hiding out in her work, having witnessed the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, watching the man she loved jump from an upper floor. When Clara discovers the terrible secret of the scarf’s original owner, Lily, she must decide if she can accept the help of a handsome doctor and brave the ferry to Manhattan to find answers. Susan Meissner seamlessly weaves a connection between two women whose broken hearts have left them in an “in-between” place.

Breakfast with Buddha by Roland Merullo

When his sister tricks him into taking her guru on a trip to their childhood home, Otto Ringling, a confirmed skeptic, is not amused. Six days on the road with an enigmatic holy man who answers every question with a riddle is not what he’d planned. But in an effort to westernize his passenger-and amuse himself-he decides to show the monk some “American fun” along the way. From a chocolate factory in Hershey to a bowling alley in South Bend, from a Cubs game at Wrigley field to his family farm near Bismarck, Otto is given the remarkable opportunity to see his world-and more important, his life-through someone else’s eyes. Gradually, skepticism yields to amazement as he realizes that his companion might just be the real thing. In Roland Merullo’s masterful hands, Otto tells his story with all the wonder, bemusement, and wry humor of a man who unwittingly finds what he’s missing in the most unexpected place.

A Marriage of Opposites by Alice Hoffmann

In this lovely and imaginative fictionalized biography, Hoffman re-envisions the mother of Camille Pissarro, the “father of impressionism.” Rachel’s Danish Jewish family fled Europe for the safety of St. Thomas shortly before her birth in 1795. At 17, she is forced into an arranged marriage to a widower with small children in order to save her father’s fortune. Several years and a few more children later, she is widowed, and despite her keen business sense, the law dictates that only a blood relative of her husband can take control of the estate. When her late husband’s nephew, Frédérick, arrives from France and sees -Rachel, his heart is immediately hers. Their lifelong passion defies Jewish law, which forbids their marriage for many years. Camille, one of Rachel’s four children, struggles well into adulthood against his mother’s cold dismissal of his artistic brilliance, which was evident from an early age. Hoffman brings into focus the birth of impressionism and the forces that shaped Pissarro’s artistic drive through the complicated, rich, adventure-filled life story of his fiery mother, fueled by her love for her family, her stubborn flaunting of society’s rules, and her deep loyalty to her friends.
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