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Book reviews for the New Year

December 17th, 2023

(Photo by Nancy Ellen Row Rawley/use with permission only, please)

Year of the Dragon, kids, my year!! is coming right up. I think I’ll skip whatever holidays are between now and Lunar New Year, thank you. (Just kidding. I’ll be cooking, cleaning and remembering to inhale/exhale from now ’til then.)

More reviews, coming up!

“Snow Leopard,” by Jackie Morris (Frances Lincoln Children’s Books/Publishers Group West, 2007, all ages, $30). This magical, beautifully illustrated picture book came out 16 years ago and is a lovely one for collectors and anyone who likes a fairy tale.

“High in the mountains the sacred cat walked alone, cloaked in her shadow-dappled fur. Crisp snow sparkled in icy stars beneath her huge paws, and all the while she sang.

“Down in the valley the Child slept, and in her dreams she heard the ghost cat’s secret music and saw the shadow of her dappled coat.”

Also highly recommended: “Small-Girl Toni and the Quest for Gold,” a brilliant, golden new picture book, based on the early life of writer Toni Morrison. It was written by Giselle Anatol, with illustrations by Raissa Figueroa. (Viking/Penguin Random House, 2023, $18.99.) The drawings are ethereal, bright and happy. I appreciate the way the author took Morrison’s back story — growing up in Lorain, Ohio, with one sister and three brothers, during the Great Depression — and wove it into historical fiction. The book includes references to Morrison’s work, with lots of details and encouragement for young readers to check out the novels when they are older. Nice job on this one. (I love Morrison, by the way. “Song of Solomon,” which I read when I was a freshman in college, changed my life, along with the lives of many others, of course. All of her writing is genius. If you haven’t read her, or re-read her, please do.)

  •   Ah! Good. More outstanding illustrations by Raissa Figueroa are showcased in “Like So,” a lovely new picture book written by Ruth Forman. (Little Simon/Simon & Schuster, 2024, all ages, $18.99.) Golds and yellows for the Toni Morrison book; greens, purples and other colors of nature for this story of a little girl, her grandmother and her family. So much love. “I hug you like so/you hug me like so/we got love/like so.” This is one you will want to read with the kids over and over again.

“The Masjid Kamal Loves” is a new picture book from writer Ashley Franklin and illustrator Aaliya Jaleel (Salaam Reads/Simon & Schuster, 2023, all ages, $18.99). This introduction to Islam introduces us to Kamal, who loves Fridays because he gets to worship and meet with his friends and community leaders.

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