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Culture Children's Books

Illustrated adventures

Children’s Books

Illustrated adventures

Dinosaurs, ballerinas, yaks, and a mysterious gardener

Are We There Yet? 

Dan Santat

This book takes readers inside a young boy’s vivid imagination as he takes a cross-country trip to visit his grandmother. As the hours go by, he envisions himself among 20th-century road races, pirates, knights and princesses, and even dinosaurs. Clever, detailed illustrations reward close inspection, making this book a perfect choice for a long road trip. Young readers will especially enjoy the tale’s interactive elements, including QR codes for smartphone-equipped readers. Santat includes a casual mention of a “million years” alongside a dinosaur image and offers the mild crudity “butt.” (Ages 4-8)

Emma and Julia Love Ballet

Barbara McClintock

This parallel story follows beginner ballerina Emma and professional dancer Julia through their daily ballet routines. Detailed illustrations capture their graceful movements, as Emma (who is white) and Julia (who is black) both work diligently toward their dancing dreams—and Emma gets to go backstage to meet Julia. Award-winning author and artist Barbara McClintock affirms the experience of young girl and boy dancers from a range of ethnicities, while pointing them toward their future … if they persevere. (Ages 4-8)

The Night Gardener

 Terry Fan & Eric Fan

At night an elderly stranger shapes trees into animals, transforming bleak Grimloch Lane into a beautiful place to live. An orphan sneaks out of his orphanage to discover the identity of the gardener, who takes the boy under his wing and teaches him how to shape the trees. Illustrations track the changed neighborhood, from drab to beautiful. They offer plenty of details for children to discover through multiple readings. The story highlights the importance of intergenerational mentoring, community, and doing things that matter, even if they don’t lead to recognition. (Ages 4-8)

Yaks Yak: Animal Word Pairs

Linda Sue Park

Yaks Yak plays with homographs (words with the same spelling and sound, but different meanings). The resulting short, amusing sentences will delight children who are discovering the playfulness of English. The ink-and-watercolor illustrations carry the absurdity to another level. The text on one spread reads “Fish fish.” The illustration shows one fish with a Book of Compliments on his hook. Other word pairs: Bats bat, quails quail, and slugs slug slugs. The book defines the words and includes further explanations—including word derivations—at the end. (Ages 4-7)


A new Zonderkidz series of children’s board books (A Land That I Love Book) shows that Christian publishing is in real trouble. Written and illustrated by Englishman Peter Francis, God Bless America, God Bless Florida, and God Bless Texas (Zonderkidz, 2016) offer a basic introduction to big tourist spots and landmarks. Each book has 16 pages (plus cover)—but about 50 percent of those pages recycle the clunky rhymes and illustrations from the other books. For instance, each book has two pages devoted to souvenir shopping with identical text and pictures (with slight substitutions in flags, hats, background). Each book opens with a spread showing Henry (the bear protagonist) hopping out of bed and ready to go on his trip: again, same text with small changes to indicate where he’s going. Kids will surely spot the identical rhymes and pictures, and parents will feel like suckers if they spend 10 bucks per book.—Susan Olasky