by Esmé Shapiro (Tundra Books, 2016 [out today!])

One of the best things about being in so many overlapping circles of the kids’ book community is that I often get a look at a book early. And this is one that has caused me to watch the calendar day after day after day after day to make sure I don’t miss telling the rest of the world when it’s ready. And people, it’s ready.

Meet Ooko.

4-5Ooko 6-7Ooko


Oh, how his face changes from happy to hope. Hope mixed up with some sadness, that is. Look how he’s got a fierce grip on those things he loves–his stick, his leaf, his rock. But look at where his eyes land–on happy hedgehogs, two by two.

While that might be the look of despair, let’s not forget his fierce grip. Ooko goes friend-hunting.

There’s a hole, a tree, and a moose. But no friends.



A page prior, Ooko spotted this Debbie playing with a funny-looking fox. The kind of fox you might have at home. The kind that starts as a puppy.

But then again, Ooko is the kind of fox that looked for a friend under a moose, and Ooko is stumped.

But then again again, Ooko is resolute. Adamant. Single-minded. Debbie-minded.


Debbie-minded enough to stick cotton candy on her head. Easy-peasy.

And it’s dear and sweet and heartbreaking to watch Ooko try so hard. And then, thanks to some smeared or shattered glasses, Ooko turns into Ruthie. A funny-looking fox, fit for a Debbie.


(Side note: best leg hair in a picture book this year? Or ever? Not to mention that sock bun.)

It doesn’t take Ooko long to get completely over this Debbie’s games.


This picture–OOOF. Right? Prim and proper and blow-dried and dressed up and despite wanting to be loved, this was not the kind he was looking for. According to the hairy-legged-lady’s gallery wall, Ruthie was all of those things that a fox is not.

And isn’t that the best news?

Because maybe, maybe, when you hightail it from the house that fits you wrong, you run into someone on the outside. Someone who likes sticks. Someone who wants to play.

Oh my crickets, this book. Be a Debbie and track it down, will you?

For more Ooko fun, click here for an Ooko Storytime Kit.

And don’t miss the grunts and squeals of our hero in his very own book trailer.

For friends who took a while. For Debbies who turn out to not be.


Thank you to Tundra Books for the images in this post. Be sure to click to enlarge!

A Home For Bird

By Philip C. Stead

{Philip and his wife, Erin, are the masterminds behind 2011 Caldecott-winning A Sick Day For Amos McGee. Erin also illustrated the gorgeous And Then Its Spring earlier this year.}

Fangirl alert. I like to think the ‘C. Stead’ part of his signature is reminiscent of my own jumbled ‘chiggins. Although I did mess that up on my driver’s license, so I really have no proof.

Vernon, a determined little toad, is a tiny collector of interesting things. On the day he finds Bird, Vernon decides to help Bird find his home.

Slow down when you read these small books…a bold but subtle clue reveals some details about Bird to the reader. Of course, dear Vernon doesn’t realize this, which just makes his journey even sweeter.

But. YOU MUST READ THIS POST. Philip reveals the history of this story and what he learned about his storytelling process with this one. He shares sketches and character studies, and the tender love he has for this book will smack you in the gut.

What more can I add to that? Not a lot.

A Home For Bird is just plain delightful. The crayon art is clearly a sophisticated execution of that medium, yet it retains an endearing childlike quality. The colors are bright but muted, the textures rough but warm. The word that comes to mind most is cozy. It’s a story that wraps around you.

I like to read it with a British accent. A terrible British accent, but I like to think that’s what Vernon sounds like. Maybe it’s a ride in the teacup? Crikey! Brilliant!

Here’s a closer look at that teacup spread. I love how the background is knocked slightly out of focus. Depth of field…with crayons. And gouache. And according to the Jules’ post above, these were unfamiliar materials to the artist. Gobsmacked.

Such a winner. Such a keeper. Grateful for this book in my library, and for this story in the world.

AND A PS…A HUGE humbled thank you to Betsy Bird and Mental Floss for including me in recent posts! Huge, really. And welcome if you have bounced over from those web gems. Hope you’ll stick around!