A Perfect Pair of Picture Books
Each of these titles shows the reader the truth about our interconnectedness, our shared experiences. Together? Whoa.
An Ordinary Day by Elana K. Arnold & Elizabet Vukovic (03/10/20)
On a city street one day, everything appears normal to children playing. But two houses are “unusually” quiet. In one, an old dog is drawing its last breaths; its family, two women and three children, gathers around sorrowfully. Next door, a father, pregnant mother, and small child gather expectantly, waiting for new life to arrive. Arnold (What Riley Wore) underscores the circumstances’ parallels: a doctor arrives and examines the dog; a visitor arrives and tends to the pregnant woman. As soft music plays in each house, both professionals say the same thing: “She is ready.” Birth and death occur all the time, all around us, Arnold notes, “like all days,/ and all neighborhoods,/ everywhere.” Figures drawn by Vuković (the Jasmine Toguchi series) have crisp, silhouette-like contours that contrast against airy, almost weightless washes. With enormous sensitivity, the creators weave together beginnings, endings, joy and sadness, and a metaphysical sense of the universe’s continuity.
Nothing in Common by Kate Hoefler & Corinna Luyken (09/15/20)
Two apartment buildings—one blue, one red—stand apart, a void of white in between. In each edifice, a child sits in a window. Neither acknowledges their counterpart, assuming they have nothing in common. But they both find joy in watching an old man walk his dog every day; and both feel heartache when the dog is lost; and both search for the dog, charting the same course. In finding the pup, the two find each other—kindred spirits who share more than just a view. The last spread emphasizes this connection, as the children wave to each other from their apartment-building windows, this time not over a white chasm but across a shared, star-filled sky. A quiet adventure for youth searching for human connection and kindness.
It's spooky how many ghost story novels are out this month!
Ghosted by Michael Fry (01/19/21)
Larry’s got a few problems. In school, he’s one of those kids who easily gets lost in the crowd. And Grimm, Larry’s best friend in the whole world, has ghosted him. Literally. One minute Grimm was saving a cat in a tree during a lightning storm, and the next, he’s pulling pranks on Larry in his new ghostly form. When the two best friends realize that there’s something keeping Grimm tethered to their world, they decide that finishing their Totally To-Do bucket list is the perfect way to help Grimm with his unfinished business. Pulling hilarious pranks and shenanigans may be easier with a ghostly best friend, but as Larry and Grimm brave the scares of seventh grade, they realize that saying goodbye might just be the scariest part of middle school.
Karma Moon, Ghost Hunter by Melissa Savage (01/19/21)
Karma Moon is a firm believer in everything "woo-woo," as her dad calls it. So when she asked her trusty Magic Eight Ball if the call asking her dad to create a ghost-hunting docuseries was her dad's big break, it delivered: "No doubt about it." Because the universe never gets it wrong. Only people do. Karma and her best friend, Mags, join her dad's Totally Rad film crew at a famous haunted hotel in Colorado over her spring break. Their mission: find a ghost and get it on camera. If they succeed, the show will be a hit, they can pay rent on time, and just maybe, her mom will come back. Unfortunately, staying at a haunted hotel isn't a walk in the park for someone with a big case of the what-ifs. But her dad made Karma the head of research for the docuseries, so she, Mags, and a mysterious local boy named Nyx must investigate every strange happening in the historically creepy Stanley Hotel. Karma hopes that her what-ifs don't make her give up the ghost before they can find a starring spirit to help their show go viral—and possibly even get them a season two.
Noah McNichol and the Backstage Ghost by Martha Freeman (01/26/21)
Break a leg! That’s what you say to actors when what you mean is Have a good show!. Anything else is bad luck. When Miss Magnus literally breaks her leg, eleven-year-old Noah McNichol and the rest of the Plattsfield Winklebottom Memorial Sixth-Grade Players are left without a director for their production of Hamlet. Coach Fig comes to the rescue—sort of. He’ll direct, even though he is clearly more interested in whatever is happening on his phone than in directing. He doesn’t even know upstage from downstage! But then something weird happens: out of nowhere appears a strangely dressed old guy named Mike. He tells Noah he has theater experience, before disappearing—poof. Noah has some investigating to do and some decisions to make. Like, does he care more that their new director might be a ghost or about getting to make his stage debut? And who is Mike and why has he decided to help? As things get weirder and weirder, one thing becomes clear: The show must go on, and Noah will do whatever it takes to make sure that happens.