By Bobbie Combs and Laurina Cashin
“Jake at Gymnastics,” written and illustrated by Rachel Isadora, Penguin Group USA, $14.99, hardcover, ages 2-5.
Join a group of jubilant toddlers at their gymnastics class! Beginning with stretching, then moving to the low balance beam and parallel bar, and on to high-energy moves like trampoline jumping, rope-swinging, and tumbling, the diverse group bubbles over with enthusiasm and excitement demonstrating what they can do. They cheer one another on (“Wow!” “Good job!”) while they’re helped and cared for by their teachers.
The line illustrations in pencil and ink finished with colorful clothing and generous white space bring the chubby and expressive toddlers front and center. “Everyone loves to jump barefoot into the ball pit” accompanies a double page of spread of confidence, energy and glee.
“Bad Bye, Good Bye,” written by Deborah Underwood and illustrated by Jonathan Bean, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $16.99, hardcover, ages 4-7.
Moving to a new home is hard and it’s not easy for kids to understand what’s on the other side of leaving what they know. With simple text – just two words per page – Underwood skillfully crafts a story with the true and honest emotions of a child.
Adjectives trace the emotional arc beginning with “bad,” followed with a descriptive range mimicking the long car journey, on to “new” and ending with “good.” Bean’s illustrations reinforce and enhance the text and carry their own emotional value through the family’s expressions, layers of pictures and the subtle move from dark to light.
“Emily’s Blue Period,” written by Cathleen Daly and illustrated by Lisa Brown, Roaring Brook Press, $17.99, hardcover, ages 6-8.
This story is also about change and the emotional life of children set against a background of divorce. Emily is an artist, and while studying Picasso in school, she registers a kinship with his “blue period,” a time of sadness.
Five scenes show readers Emily’s path toward understanding and acceptance of her new family situation and art’s supportive role in the transition. Touches of humor in both story and art balance the serious situation.
The simple illustrations are nonetheless lively and the changing layout, differing font sizes and speech balloons connect the different scenes and keep the story moving.
Bobbie Combs and her partner Laurina Cashin are the cofounders of We Love Children’s Books, a consulting agency for the children’s book industry. Collectively they have 40 years varied experience in the industry. Visit their website at www.welovechildrensbooks.com.