The only llama in the sea climbs an umbrella tree

When Your Llama Needs A Haircut by Susanna Leonard Hill, illustrated by Daniel Wiseman. Little Simon, 2018. 9781534405639. Board book, for kids who might chew on it. Very few pages.

It’s picture day and your llama needs a haircut. But of course your llama thinks its hair looks fine. What do you do? (Warning: your llama will not look good in a bowl cut. But the drawing of it in the book is hilarious.)




The Only Fish In The Sea by Philip C. Stead, illustrated by Matthew Cordell. Roaring Brook, 2017. 978626722828. Picture book.

Sherman tells Sadie about Amy Scott, who got a goldfish for her birthday, then walked to the end of the dock and threw it into the sea. It must be lonely, and may be in grave danger. Sadie starts calling the goldfish Ellsworth, and with the help of six monkeys she mounts a rescue operation. (The art in this is also fun. Very sketchy. And the monkeys are a hoot.)

Another Way to Climb a Tree by Liz Garton Scanlon, pictures by Hadley Hooper. 9781626723528. Roaring Brook, 2017. Picture book.

Lulu climbs all the trees, even the ones other kids fall out of. Then she’s sick and stuck inside for a day and has to find a way to use her imagination to climb trees. That’s my adult explanation that’s not as fun as the book, which also looks wonderfully colorful and textured and somehow retro.




The Big Umbrella by Amy June Bates, cowritten with Juniper Bates (her 7th grade daughter). Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2018. 9781534406582. Picture book.

A smiling, friendly umbrella loves to help, and it’s kind of magic so it gets bigger and bigger as more people gather underneath it to hide from the rain (no matter how tall or large they are). This is a great picture book idea that’s beautifully executed and destined to be a bestseller forever in a place like Seattle.

The Incredible Flatness of Being

shapes by John. J. Reiss. Little Simon, 2016. 9781481476454. 34pp.

colors by John J. Reiss. Little Simon, 2016. 9781481476430. 34pp.

Two classic picture books from the late 60s and early 70s featuring what I think of as flat art — bold, uniform colors, no shadows, gradients, or textures. (The board book format’s cardboard pages makes the art feel even flatter.) I’ve got no idea how art like this was colored before the age of Photoshop but it’s simply wonderful to look at. In shapes a gray fox and his friend, a mole, show where colorful basic shapes like triangles and circles appear in things like sails and thumbtacks, and how they can be combined to make more complex shapes like pyramids and spheres. There are even pentagons and hexagons and more. In colors Reiss shows the variety of what we might refer to as “blue,” “yellow,” and other colors by showing differently colored things — cornflowers, blueberries, the sea / baby chicks, bees, squash — that are not all the same color as each other. Like the fish on the cover, the entire design emphasizes that things we can group as the same aren’t the same. And his section on green includes gooseberries, which kids need to know about so that stores will continue to stock gooseberry jam, which I love.

Thrice Upon Three Board Books


Rapunzel by Chloe Perkins, Illustrated by Archana Screenivasan. Little Simon, 2017. 9781481490726. 24pp.

Snow White by Chloe Perkins, Illustrated by Misa Saburi. Little Simon, 2016. 9781481471855. 24pp.

Cinderella by Chloe Perkins, Illustrated by Sandra Equihua. Little Simon, 2016. 9781481479158. 24pp.

The board books are all part of the Once Upon A World series, short retellings of classic fairy tales for very little kids set in different places around the globe: India (Rapunzel), Japan (Snow White), and Mexico (Cinderella). The tales themselves are short and simple — details aren’t changed at all to make the text refer to the cultures where the stories takes place. (The one exception I recall is that in Snow White the text mentions that the seven dwarves have teacups in their cabin.) It’s the art that sets the stories in other lands. The books make the unstated point — that these stories are universal — and they totally work.