8 Picture Books That Celebrate the Joys of Life – The New York Times

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Picture Books
New work from Satoshi Kitamura, Lynne Rae Perkins, Shawn Harris, Bruce Handy, Hyewon Yum, Nikki Grimes, Elizabeth Zunon, Micha Archer, Julie Flett and Vera Brosgol.

THE SMILE SHOP
Written and illustrated by Satoshi Kitamura
A boy wearing a red scarf stands out at a muted-pastel street market. Having saved his pocket money, he’s excited to buy himself something “for the very first time.” When he stops to look at the fruits and vegetables, they blush — “such wonderful colors.” When he breathes deeply at an Indian food stall — what “tempting smells!” He opens a book that opens a world, toots a horn that releases a sound. Then his coins get knocked from his hand and the market fades to gray. Ultimately, the boy learns it’s his humanity that imbues the world with color, his appreciation of a pear or a person that gives back a thousandfold. All the while, Kitamura’s art warms us like the red scarf on a cheerful boy, a smile stretching ear to ear.
32 pp. Peachtree. $17.99. (Ages 4 to 8)
THE MUSEUM OF EVERYTHING
Written and illustrated by Lynne Rae Perkins
When the world feels too big and busy, a girl thinks up imaginary museums where she can look at “little pieces of it, one at a time”: museums of islands, hiding places, shadows. Perkins — a Newbery Medal-winning novelist as well as acclaimed picture book creator — alternates her familiar watercolor art with photographed miniatures made from materials such as sand, stones, twigs, moss, modeling clay and lights. Near the end of the book, the girl notices “the Sky Museum,” which is “already there”: It’s “open all the time” and “different every day”; “usually there are birds, and sometimes airplanes.”
40 pp. Greenwillow. $17.99. (Ages 4 to 8)
HAVE YOU EVER SEEN A FLOWER?
Written and illustrated by Shawn Harris
Harris, who has illustrated books by Dave Eggers, Colin Meloy and Mac Barnett, makes his authorial debut with this stunning tour de force in neon colored pencil, also new territory for the artist (known for his cut-paper technique). Using a combination of free and stenciled drawing, he moves seamlessly between panoramic landscapes showing rows of flowers for as far as the eye can see to saturated close-ups. His language, too, is vivid and precise: “Breathe deep,” he instructs his young heroine as she closes her eyes and pokes her nose into some petals. “What do you see? Raindrops made of honey? The knees of bumblebees?”
48 pp. Chronicle. $17.99. (Ages 3 to 5)
THE HAPPINESS OF A DOG WITH A BALL IN ITS MOUTH
Written by Bruce Handy
Illustrated by Hyewon Yum
Handy’s debut picture book, arguably an antidote to Charles Schulz’s “Happiness Is a Warm Puppy,” is as much about the buildup to his title as it is about its payoff. “The patience of a dog at the door,” waiting to go out — leash in mouth, eyes bright, tail poised in that moment before wagging — is a necessary prelude to the dog’s joy. Just as losing precedes finding, and “holding in” precedes “letting go.” By turns wistful and whimsical, and particularly apt for these times, this one’s a keeper.
56 pp. Enchanted Lion. $18.95. (Ages 3 to 8)
OFF TO SEE THE SEA
Written by Nikki Grimes
Illustrated by Elizabeth Zunon
“Bath time is full of magic!” a mother coos to her daughter as she switches on a “roaring waterfall.” Zunon, who grew up on the Ivory Coast and collaborated with Grimes on “Bedtime for Sweet Creatures,” infuses this daily ritual with tropical texture. The multihued seawater of her gorgeous endpapers — undulating waves collaged from what look like patterned fabrics, mottled stone and tile — contains both earth and sky.
32 pp. Sourcebooks Jabberwocky. $17.99. (Ages 4 to 8)
WONDER WALKERS
Written and illustrated by Micha Archer
“Is the wind the world breathing?” “Are shells the shore’s necklace?” “Are trees the sky’s legs?” Two innately curious and imaginative children, their clothes rendered in oil and collage from the same materials Archer uses to depict nature itself, ask questions of the cosmos in this immersive wonder of a book. The Ezra Jack Keats Award-winning author and illustrator, whose spare poetic text seems to echo from our collective unconscious, works on paper she creates with homemade stamps and layered tissue paper.
32 pp. Nancy Paulsen. $17.99. (Ages 3 to 7)
WE ALL PLAY
Written and illustrated by Julie Flett
The title is a single word in Cree — kimêtawânaw — rather than three separate ones. The image of the three children on the cover, while made up of individual silhouettes, repeats visually as a unit twice more inside. The final time, the butterfly they’re chasing has moved on, to the page ahead, joining two more butterflies (a new unit of three) and three more children. The Cree-Métis author’s verse reflects a similar pattern: Rhythmic alliterative word-pairs describing animals’ play are followed by the children’s univocal refrain celebrating our interconnectedness: “We play too!”
40 pp. Greystone Kids. $17.95. (Ages 3 to 7)
MEMORY JARS
Written and illustrated by Vera Brosgol
Upset that she can’t eat every bucketful of blueberries she picked with her gran all in the same afternoon (“they were the best right then and they’d never be any better”), a lovably quirky girl takes “preserving” to a whole new level. Add Brosgol’s signature big-eyed characters, a touch of dark humor and a mouthwatering jam recipe, and you’ve got all the ingredients for a sequel.
48 pp. Roaring Brook. $18.99. (Ages 4 to 8)
Jennifer Krauss is the children’s books editor for the Book Review.
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