Another year passes by. Weekly trips to the library, gifts and several visits to our local used bookstores…books flowed in from everywhere. Huddling up for a read-aloud still seems to be the most favorite thing to do in our family. I sometimes think I should keep track of every book we read together. But that would almost be impossible. I usually end up reviewing the ones that make an immediate impact or the ones we keep going back to. However, there are books that we really like but don’t make the final cut somehow. So, I thought a year-end wrap up is a great opportunity to mention these picture books alongside our top picks for 2012 (from the ones already reviewed). Note that these books were our favorites from the ones we read in 2012, not necessarily published in that year.
“Peach heaven” by Yanksook Choi: A gentle story based on the author’s childhood, this book is about a girl who longs to play and eat in the neighborhood peach orchards in her town Puchon, in South Korea. As luck would have it, a storm brings those peaches right to her doorstep. But as she bites into them, she remembers the farmers who have lost their harvest and decides to do something about it. (Review by Meera Sriram)
“Lola’s Fandango” by Anna Witte (writer) and Micha Archer (illustrator) is a fun story from Spain about a little girl Lola who becomes interested in flamenco dancing, after finding a pair of polka dot dancing shoes in her mami’s closet. Her mami won’t tell her much about flamenco, but after some pleading, her father agrees to teach her the dance. Colorful and lyrical, as you read aloud to your kids you can hear the rhythm of the dance in the words. The book perfectly captures the spirit of children when they develop an interest; in this case, Lola starts hearing the rhythm of flamenco everywhere, as she brushes her teeth, makes her bed and even dreams. Available in Spanish and English, the English version integrates a few Spanish words easily into the text (a glossary is found in the back). The book also comes with a CD of the story, to which both my four and five-year-old girls love listening. (Review by Stephanie Meade)
“Pablo’s Tree” by Pat Mora: Pablo’s grandfather had planted a tree to welcome Pablo into the family. He has been decorating the tree in special ways every year for Pablo’s birthday. Figuring out the surprise this year and learning how Abuelito and Pablo celebrate their own Mexican-American family tradition make up the rest of the story. (Review by Meera Sriram)
“The Butter Man” by Elizabeth Alalou and Ali Alalou (writers) and illustrated by Julie Klear Eassakalli is a story a Moroccan father tells his daughter, Nora, one Saturday afternoon as he makes his weekly couscous. As he cooks, Nora complains, “I’m staaarving!” and with that, her Baba tells her a story from his own childhood in Morocco. “When I was a little boy, about your age, there was a time when my family didn’t have much to eat,” he begins. I love the many glimpses of Moroccan culture found throughout the book, including a few Moroccan words like the blessing before eating “bismillah,” while weaving in a tale about hunger and patience in a way all children will be able to understand and ask questions about. My children love this story since it is one of the few books about Morocco we know. (Review by Stephanie Meade)
“Over in Australia: Amazing Animals Down Under” by Marianne Burkes: As the title says, the book takes us to the wallabies, wombats and emus in Australia. Rhyming text with animals hopping and dancing gets kids excited. Informative and delightful, this book is a must if you don’t know what a brolga is! (Review by Meera Sriram)
“Art Around the World: Loo-Loo, Boo, and More Art You Can Do” by Denis Roche: I am a huge fan of anything that takes kids (or me) around the world, really quick and really cheap. And this book does just that! It is part of a series; it comes with step-by-step explanations and requires everyday things to create art and crafts native to different regions of the world. Have you or your kids ever wanted to make a Chinese scroll, a Mexican weave or an Italian mosaic? I love the list because it includes projects from places like Peru, Java, Egypt and Bali. Honestly, we have yet to try anything (simply because we end up looking up and reading more about the art or about the country). But I am hopeful that this book will be my best shot at such a diverse assortment of crafts. (Review by Meera Sriram)
“Busy Busy Grand-Ant” by Sandhya Rao: Now that you know how much I love books that let us travel, it should not surprise you to read about this book. Moreover, my four-year-old now loves this book just the way my daughter loved it a few years ago, so I thought it should make this list. It has a travel quiz and we follow Grand-Ant to a bunch of countries. The clues give away details and characteristics places and are suitable for smaller kids. The book is short, simple and fun. (Review by Meera Sriram)
More Top Picks from Meera’s Family in 2012
You can read detailed reviews of our family’s most favorite picture books this year following the links below.