Lift by Minh Le

LiftLift by Minh Lê; illustrated by Dan Santat. 2020. Published by Hyperion.

Brief summary: Iris’s job is to push the lift’s button for her family every day until one time her little brother surprisingly does it. She does not like that. The next time the family stands in front of the elevator, Iris darts out front and pushes the button for it to arrive and then all of the buttons inside of the elevator.  A few days later, she notices that the maintenance man is fixing a broken elevator and throwing away the button. Iris takes it and runs up to her room where she tapes it by her closet’s door and pushes it.  It dings. She goes into another world and then another.  Iris decides it would be more fun to share the adventures with her little brother.

Comments: I love that the end pages have the beginning and end of the story on them instead of being the usual white.

The story is mainly told with detailed graphic illustrations.

This is the second picture book of the duo.

Drawn Together is their first, published in 2018.

drawn together

Just Like a Mama by Alice Faye Duncan

Just Like a MamaJust Like a Mama by Alice Faye Duncan; illustrated by Charnelle Pinkney Barlow. 2020. Watercolor, gouache, colored pencil and gel pen. Published by Simon & Schuster.

Brief summary: Carol lives with Mama Rose who is just like a mama. In the absence of Carol’s biological parents, Mama Rose takes care of Carol by feeding her, teaching her how to ride a bike, and disciplines her when she decides not to follow the rules. Mama Rose loves Carol just like a mama.

Comments: “A Note From the Author” is in the back.

My Papi Has a Motorcycle by Isabel Quintero; illustrated by Zeke Pena

My Papi has a MotorcycleMy  Papi has a Motorcycle by Isabel Quintero; illustrated by Zeke Pena. 2019. Mix of hand-painted watercolor texture. Published by Kokila.

Brief summary: Daisy Ramona loves it when her Papi comes home from work to take his daughter on a motorcycle trip through their neighborhood. Daisy points out all of the highlights injecting many of the Spanish words for those special places in her life. They are disappointed to see that one of their favorite places has gone out of business. They continue waving to neighbors including her grandparents as they head to the job site where her father has been helping to build a new house. They turn to drive back home to find  her brother and Mami are waiting to share a surprise that completes the ride.

Comments: This book is based on the author’s own bike rides with her father when he came home from work, and  they would drove around Corona, California.  The illustrator was able to successfully caption the love and admiration of the daughter towards her father, the colors and characters of the neighborhood, and the fun they had driving around on the motorcycle. Beautifully done!


A Busy Creature’s Day Eating! by Mo Willems

A Busy Creature's Day of EatingA Busy Creature’s Day Eating! by Mo Willems; illustrated by Mo Willems. 2018. Published by Hyperion Books for Children

Brief summary: A purple monster with a pink and blue striped outfit alphabetically eats through things in the house beginning with Apples and then ending up feeling sick at Q for Queasy. The father comes in and gives the monster child foods that are to help the stomach-ache until “V” happens in which the monster is put to bed.

Comments: The creature could be any child that overeats everything in the house until a big stomach-ache occurs. It is nice to see an ABC concept book with a story. End pages have a large upper cased blocked ABCs. The back flap has a cartoon of Mo Willems with his brief bio sketch.

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Love by Matt de la Pena


Love by Matt de la Pena; illustrated by Loren Long. 2018. Collaged monotype prints, acrylic paint and pencil. Published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons.

Brief summary: The book begins with two parents looking straight at the reader but are actually peering into a crib. They are the beginning of love. You, for a moment, are the baby seeing his/her parents for the first time.  Readers journey through the book relating and recalling the various types of loves we have(or will if the reader is a child) in life through the quiet poem and illustrations.

Comments: (My resource for reviewing picture books are from my public library, so it took a while for my name to come up in the long reserve list for this book that released in January). The illustrations are diverse and multicultural with scenes from various families’ lives and times when love is displayed and shared. The concepts may be a bit mature for very young children. Older elementary students will understand and relate to those times they experienced love.

I feel this is one of those picture books adults will enjoy too, as they can relate and experience all of those situations when love was experienced–in good times and bad. I believe this will be a good “going-off-to-college” or graduation gift as the ending talks about leaving the family but having love on the new journey.

I am including this book trailer where both author and illustrator beautifully share their ideas for this book.

A Different Pond by Bao Phi

A Different Pond

A Different Pond by Bao Phi; illustrated by Thi Bui. 2017. Published by Capstone Young Readers.

Brief summary: A young boy gets up early with his father on a Saturday when most people sleep in. They get ready to go fishing being sure to stop by the bait store to buy minnows. It is before dawn and still a little cold as they stand by the pond fishing. The boy gathers some wood to build a fire. As they wait for a bite, the father and son eat a bologna sandwich. His father talks about how he fished at a pond like this when he was a boy in Vietnam. They catch a few fish and are happy. The sun is starting to rise as they drive back home. The fish in the white bucket will be their dinner later that night. Both of his parents get ready to go to work leaving him to take care of his siblings. After dinner, he goes to sleep dreaming of the pond his father fished from as a child.

Comments: In the back of the book, Boa Phi shares his story of what it was like for his family to come to America as refugees from the war in 1975. He is the youngest of six children. Like the parents in the story, his parents worked multiple jobs as well. Bao Phi shares how they fished for food not as a sport but for food just like the family in this picture book.

Illustrator, Thi Bui, is also born in Vietnam.

The illustrations are done in graphic novel panels at times.

Buy here.

How to Be an Elephant: Growing Up in the African Wild by Katherine Roy

How to Be an Elephant

How to Be an Elephant: Growing Up in the African Wild by Katherine Roy; illustrated by Katherine Roy. 2017. Watercolors. Published by Roaring Brook Press.

Brief summary: An infant elephant is born into a loving herd that raises her to adulthood teaching all of the skills an elephant must learn to live.

Comments: Although my description is short, the book is actually quite detailed and covered many facts about elephants I did not know about earlier. The diagrams help explain how the elephant smells, hears, communicates and other skills needed to be an elephant. The author/illustrator went to Kenya to research elephants and her love of them is felt in the beautiful illustrations. This book is a must for all elephant lovers.

Buy here.

Second Grade Holdout by Audrey Vernick

Second Grade Holdout

Second Grade Holdout by Audrey Vernick; illustrated by Matthew Cordell. 2017. Pen and ink with watercolor. Published by Clarion Books.

Brief summary: A boy going into second grade remembers all of the wonderful things he did and accomplished in first grade. He worries that second grade will have difficult tasks, and he may not be the good student his dad wants him to be.  He decides he’ll just stay in Ms. Morgan’s first grade class and comes up with all the reasons why that will be a good idea. He agonizes about going to second grade after hearing that second grade is much harder than first grade.  After realizing that his best friend’s sisters are kidding about what second grade is like, he and his buddy go to school.

Comments: Students will find the boy’s reasons of not going to second grade humorous.  I like how he is able to figure out that his best friend’s older sisters are kidding and teasing them about being worried about going into second grade. They actually help him realize that it is going to be okay knowing that not all of the rumors are not true about second grade.

Buy here.

(I may receive a small commission for purchases made with links in this post through the Amazon Affiliate Program.  Books in this picture book blog are not sent to me in exchange for a review, but instead, are checked out from a public library)

My Daddy Rules the World: Poems About Dads by Hope Anita Smith

My Daddy Rules the World

My Daddy Rules the World: Poems About Dads by Hope Anita Smith; illustrated by Hope Anita Smith. 2017. Torn paper. Published by Henry Holt and Company.

Brief summary: Fifteen poems with full-page illustrations all in the voice and viewpoint of the son or daughter.

Comments: Illustrations are created with torn paper. The faces are without features. I liked all of the different roles that a father had in this book. Students and children will be able to relate to the subject matter. Multicultural.

Buy here.

(I may receive a small commission for purchases made with links in this post through the Amazon Affiliate Program.  Books in this picture book blog are not sent to me in exchange for a review, but instead, are checked out from a public library).

Early Sunday Morning by Denene Millner

Early Sunday Morning

Early Sunday Morning by Denene Millner; illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton. 2017. Published by Agate Bolden  This is the first of a new series by Denene Millner.

Brief Summary: June enjoys going to church every Sunday with her family but is  a little nervous for the coming Sunday, as she will sing her first solo with the youth choir. Throughout the week, several people give her advice of how not to be scared. The day has come, and her mother and younger brother, Troy, get all dressed up in their finest clothes. Daddy worked an extra shift at work and will need to rest at home. June goes to Sunday school and learns about love. She puts on her white robe afterwards and is ready to sing in the  children’s choir. She waits while Pastor Scott leads prayers and when it will be her turn to do her solo. Although she is nervous, June takes a deep breath and focuses on one spot in the back of the room. At that time, her father opens the church’s doors and shouts, “Sing, Baby.” June is able to sing in front of the congregation with her father beside her.

Comments: We often do not see many religious based books in elementary school libraries even though a child’s religion plays an enormous role in his/her life. This book captures how important church is in June’s life. I think while we are talking about making sure our libraries are diverse, it is important to expose students to different religions in their community to better understand and appreciate each other.  This book also teaches how, although we may be afraid at times, we must move on and conquer that fear. June had the love of her father(who must have been exhausted from doing a double shift the day before) who gave up his rest to be there for his child.

Buy here.

(I may receive a small commission for purchases made with links in this post through the Amazon Affiliate Program.  Books in this picture book blog are not sent to me in exchange for a review, but instead, are checked out from a public library).