(A) Ages 0-4, (B) Ages 4-8, Book Reviews, Christian, Family Read Alouds, Picture Books, Starred Reviews
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4 Excellent New Picture Books

[Reviews and recommendations from Pamela!]

Four excellent new picture books to enjoy with the children in your life–worth seeking out as all are starred reviews!

*The Darkest Dark by Chris Hadfield with Kate Fillion, illustrated by The Fan Brothers. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2016. 48 pages.

 Reading Level: Ages 4-8

Recommended for reading aloud, especially to those with fear of the dark

Astronaut Chris Hadfield tells this story of a young boy who loves to pretend he’s bravely fighting aliens from outer space all day long; but at night, he’s afraid of the dark!  His firm and loving parents require he stay in his own bed (after they thoroughly check his room for monsters) so they will all be rested enough to watch the first man step on the moon on the neighbor’s t.v. the following night.  When he sees the history-making event, and realizes outer space is “the darkest dark,” the wonder of it grips him and the boy is changed.  The dark with all its mystery beckons to him to dream big…and sometimes such dreams really can come true.  A short biography of Astronaut Hadfield follows, as well as a brief message from him accompanied by photos from his life.  If we had any doubts about this story being autobiographical, they evaporate when we see him, about age 5, in his first (cardboard box) spaceship.  The Fan Brothers come through again in their illustrations (The Night Gardener), capturing well both the scariness of monster shapes in the dark, and its magic. Cautions: none.

  • Overall Rating: 5
  • Worldview Rating: 4.5
  • Artistic Rating: 5


*The Red Prince by Charlie Roscoe and Charles Jubb, illustrated by Tom Clohosy Cole. Candlewick Press, 2016. 32 pages

Reading Level: Ages 2-6

Recommended for: reading aloud to young adventurers
While the king and queen are away and the kingdom sleeps, a fleet of black ships arrives on the shore of the kingdom of Zapada on a snowy night, and the invaders kidnap the young Prince!  With his small dog, he is imprisoned in a cold, dark cell, in a secret, remote inland location.  But all is not lost–with the help of his canine companion, he escapes, still in his red pajamas.  Pursued ruthlessly by his powerful enemies, he eludes them time and again with the help of his loyal subjects, until the enemy is routed.  Illustrator Cole uses graphic novel-like panels and Where’s Waldo-esque whole page spreads (where is the prince in his red pajamas on the page where all his subjects dress in red to hide him?), never ramping it up to too scary.  This is a book that will be read again and again.  Cautions: none
  • Overall Rating: 4.5
  • Worldview Rating: 4.5
  • Artistic Rating: 4.5


Storm’s Coming! by Margi Preus, illustrated by David Geister. Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2016. 32 pages.

*Reading Level: Ages 4-8

Recommended for: reading aloud, and nature lovers

Young Sophie lives on the shore of Lake Superior, where (as the author explains in the Afterword) a storm could come from behind the lighthouse her family runs, unseen until it was upon them.  But Sophie is alert to other clues, and when her mother comments her bread is rising faster than usual, she gets permission to run and tell the other family members, “Storm’s coming!”  With each warning given, another clue is noted from the animal, insect or plant kingdom, and when the storm finally hits, her whole family is safe and the lighthouse is ready.  Although the author doesn’t comment on how it is that bees, birds, spiders and flowers know a storm is coming, it is a natural jumping off point for a discussion on God’s care in creating all his creatures.  In his dramatic oil paintings, illustrator Geister holds back and only shows the roiling storm clouds at the end of the book, so that along with Sophie the reader must rely on God’s clues from nature to know “Storm’s coming!”  Cautions: none

  • Overall Rating: 4.5
  • Worldview Rating: 4.5
  • Artistic Rating: 4.5

*Zacchaeus and Jesus (Flipside Stories) by Dandi Daley Mackall, illustrated by Lisa Manuzak. Tyndale House Publishers, 2016. 48 pages

Reading Level: Ages 4-8 years

Recommended for: reading aloud to those who enjoy Bible stories retold well

It’s hard to say which side of the story Mackall tells better in her well-done rhyming text, Zacchaeus’s or Jesus’s.  This two-in-one flip book accords well with the Scriptural account, but takes the reader a little deeper.  In Zacchaeus’s account, we hear his heart’s cry: he “must find a way to see Jesus,” and our hearts sing with his at his last two lines: “I feel ten feet tall!  Now I want to obey!  We walk home, just me and my Jesus.”  Then when you flip the book to the Jesus and Zacchaeus side, you begin to grasp Jesus’s love of sinners, and intense desire to rescue those who are lost.  This side ends by quoting Luke 19:10: “The Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost.”  Manuzak’s colorful, multi-cultural and expressive-faced illustrations enhance the story and will appeal to the intended audience. Caution: Pictures of Jesus

  • Overall Rating: 5
  • Worldview Rating: 5
  • Artistic Rating: 5

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