Plant sunflowers on the Moon? What a great idea! Now, how can we get there? Why, a bicycle of course!
Have you ever looked at the Moon and thought it looked sad? It’s all by its lonesome and nothing lives there. For one young boy his sole mission is to cheer up the Moon. How does he plan to cheer up the moon? By planting sunflowers! In the picture book How to Bicycle to the Moon to Plant Sunflowers: A Simple but Brilliant Plan in 24 Easy Steps, author Mordicai Gerstein has laid out a plan for anyone to follow to reach the Moon. NASA hasn’t even thought of it! All you will need is a bicycle, a huge slingshot, an extremely long garden hose, and a spacesuit, size extra small, from NASA. Sounds easy, right? Have you gotten permission from your parents? Uh, oh, that could be the most difficult part of this brilliant plan.
The Tales of Olga da Polga, by Michael Bond—creator of the Paddington Bear books, features a feisty, queenly, and imaginative guinea pig who leaves the dull life of an English pet shop to go live with her own “Sawdust People” in “a house with legs” in their garden. For another guinea pig, it would be just a sensible, comfortable life change, but Olga is not just another guinea pig.
Getting ready for back-to-school, but not ready to pack away the fun? Al Yankovic’s My New Teacher and Me! is as welcome for the last weeks of summer as an ice cream truck after a long, hot day at the pool. In this rollicking story, Mr. Booth’s strict rules have met their match in Billy, a bright-eyed boy who shows up for the first day of class with a wide-open imagination. Disapproving Mr. Booth spots the dirt on Billy’s shirt immediately! Billy quickly—and politely—tells him how that came to be:
“I was digging to China out in my backyard.
And I almost was there when—I hit something hard!
Well, I dug, and I dug, and I dug a bit more
And discovered the skull of a real dinosaur!
“And I would have cleaned up, sir, but hey, I’m no fool—
I just couldn’t be late on the first day of school!”
Bow-tied and sour, Mr. Booth says his tale sounds highly unlikely, but as Billy points out, “the awesome-est things in the world often are!”
Welcome to Your Awesome Robot, by Viviane Schwarz, is part comic, part how-to guide, and all around a hilarious way to use your imagination to make something cool. It follows the story of a child who receives a cardboard box with the title phrase written across it.
From there, we explore the fun and logistics of making your own personal robot costume. The book explains the materials you need, tasks that might require adult assistance, and potential hazards to be aware of during your robot's construction. With this guide, your imagination is your only limit.
Ah, the wacky uncle. He is an institution as old as the concept of family itself. Many can claim to have one, but few can say that his uncle is one of the most important artists of the 20th century. That's where Uncle Andy's, by James Warhola, figures in.
Before Warhol was a painter, a filmmaker, and a celebrity, he was Andrew Warhola. After college, he shortened his name and left his home in Pittsburgh to start an art career in Manhattan. But back in Steel City was Andy's older brother Paul, who worked in a junkyard and was father to seven children, one of whom was our author/illustrator James. Paul used a lot of the trash he found to make sculptures, and if he found something particularly unusual, he would bring it to Andy.
Chu's Day, the new picture book by Neil Gaiman and illustrated by Adam Rex, must have found some of its inspiration from the YouTube video in which a baby panda sneezes so explosively that its poor mother is absolutely shocked.
Chu is a young panda who has bad things happen when he sneezes. With this fact begins the suspenseful build towards the big event. Just how destructively massive will Chu's sneeze be? We go to a library with dusty books. Chu is able to restrain himself. We go to a diner with pepper in the air. Chu manages to hold back, but trouble begins to brew at the circus.
I was never the new kid at school, but I had plenty of moments when I felt like I didn't fit in or belong. That is why I identified immediately with the titular character of Marshall Armstrong is New to Our School.
To our schoolboy narrator, Marshall looks like trouble from the start. He wears a tweed jacket with leather patches with a ragtimey hat covering his head. "He looks different to me."
The nitpicky observations continue. His glasses say "Ray Ban" so they must belong to another boy. The food Marshall eats at lunch all comes in silver wrappers, obviously "space food." While everyone else has a regular bicycle, Marshall rides a velocipede. He can't play during gym, and he doesn't watch television. Who is this kid? Is he an alien? Is he from another century? What a weirdo.
So when Marshall invites the whole class to his birthday party it's bound to be a terrible time, right?
Jeremy Draws a Monster never gets too scary. The beast in question has some horns and is a bit of a snaggletooth, but his eyes are too tiny to be that threatening. Still, this monster is this one rude dude. Jeremy seemed to just want a friend to play with. He stays inside while other children play soccer. So he takes a fancy pen and draws this creature creation.
Bears have much in common with people. We're both mammals. We're both omnivores. We are protective of our young. Also, if a bear happens to lose something very important, they will search for it. Especially if that something is their hat.
I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen is a clear-cut observation of a bear in his natural habitat, asking other animals if they have seen his missing prized possession.
What that description did not tell you is how unbelievably charming and oddball Klassen has made this story. Bear, standing upright, interrogates a different animal. Nearly every conversation is alike. No one has seen his hat and bear retorts, "OK. Thank you anyway." before he goes on to the next creature. The whole thing reads like a classic comedy bit.
Chloe and the Lion is not about a young girl facing off with a ferocious feline, no matter what the title says. Sure, Chloe's present, saving up her nickels and dimes to ride the merry-go-round. She does, in fact, spin around that ride so many times that she gets dizzy and lost in the nearby woods. It is at that very point that Chloe should meet a lion. Instead, a large, ferocious, winged, burgundy dragon steps out.
Writing a picture book is hard work. You must have a solid story, likable characters, and the right choice of words. What's more, this delicate balance can be completely thrown out of whack by a maverick illustrator who thinks that "a dragon would be cooler."