March is a tough time of year if you live in the North, waiting for Spring to arrive. What better way to usher in the happier weather than sharing colorful and magical picture books with your children? Here are four new ones to check out: Hold Hands By Sara Varon, Dear Ballerina By Monica Wellington, The Babysitter From Another Planet By Stephen Savage, and Music For Mister Moon By Philip and Erin Stead. Some titles are available now and some you can pre-order!
In Varon’s signature style that combines whimsy with deep caring, she shares a poem about children holding hands. In a world populated with elephants that ride bicycles and a bear can have a playdate with a duck (they both eat salad), we start the story with the sun holding hands with the moon as they switch places in the sky. Then we follow a little bear from the moment they hold hands with mom to get out of bed, holding hands through the busy town, holding hands with friends at daycare, and back home again. Everyone in this book holds hands:
“Hold hands on a ledge, on a bridge, in a hedge. You can even hold hands with a tree instead.”
It’s a sweet reminder of how important physical touch is in our world, especially for children.
Female Characters: The book has gender-neutral animals. There is some gender-specific clothing, and it is distributed equally, but that doesn’t necessarily mark gender (I’d love for the heart-patterned pants to be on a male hippo) so I’m not going to give a percentage on this one.
Diversity: All animals in a variety of colors.
“When young dancers perform onstage with professional dancers, the children often write letters of appreciation to their grown-up colleagues.”
Wellington tells us this at the back of this darling book filled with pink, flowers, tutus, and glitter (yes! real glitter on the cover!) Written as a letter from a little ballerina in a performance to the professional dancer she admires, we learn how much this little girl loves ballet, trains hard, and believes in her dance dream.
“I love to dance. I tiptoe in my ballet slippers. I bend and stretch to the music. I love to jump and turn. Dancing makes me happy.”
The art is all happy, round faces and bright colors. For your ballerina in training or just a lover of dance, this is the book to pick up.
Female Characters: The majority of the book pictures girls and their adult female teachers. However, a couple of boys are shown in the ballet class, so if your son is interested in dance, they will see themselves represented here.
Diversity: Although predominantly light, there are a variety of skin tones throughout the book, with a darker-skin dancer in every group scene.
Set in a 1950’s world, the two children in this silly book are left in the care of an alien while their parents go out. Their parents wave good-bye happily while the alien roasts a chicken with her laser vision in the kitchen. Although wary at first (the alien is purple, with horns, and a floating orb above her head), the children really enjoy their otherworldly friend. Among other activities, the alien reads them a bedtime story (War of the Worlds) and levitates them up to their bedrooms.
Although the house is set in the ’50s, the artistic style of the book is modern digital. The alien is not scary at all, and the children are seen smiling in almost every picture, so this is suitable for children of all ages. I enjoyed this imaginative book about what having an alien around might be like.
Female Characters: Three of the five main characters are female, with several non-gendered aliens at the end.
Diversity: Hard to say exactly, but the mother and father have different skin tones, and the kids definitely have curly hair.
This is a quiet book with lots of meaning. Harriet Henry, who would rather go by Hank, loves playing her cello and being alone. Her parents encourage her to play her cello for other people, but Hank is having none of that. She imagines her parents as penguins and escapes to her room.
“When Harriet was alone she would change her room into a little house with a kitchen table, a chair, a teacup, and a fireplace.”
(Sounds pretty nice to me.) One evening while she is about to practice her cello alone, an owl disturbs her practice. In a fit, Hank throws a teacup out the window, with the unintended consequence of knocking the moon out of the sky. Feeling guilty, Hank tries to help the moon have a good time down below: she drags it along in her wagon to get a hat and a boat and float on a lake, but the moon asks for music. Can Hank share her music with the moon?
The pages are filled with delicate sketches and muted colors that fit the main character’s need for quiet and stillness in order to practice her cello. Mister Moon’s face is kind and world-weary. The details in the writing make this book stand out, especially the interactions with store owners that may or may not be real, but they all appreciate the gifts the moon has given them.
I highly recommend for all ages.
Female Characters: 2 out of 7 characters are female. Unfortunately, this book falls into the problem many children books have by giving all animals and gender-neutral characters male pronouns.
Diversity: None, though most characters are animals (or the moon.)
GeekMom received a copy of these books for review purposes.