Children’s books teach lessons on roses, dinosaurs and patience and family teach lessons in patience and anatomy
Since I am now one of the many millions who have had to isolate at home because of a positive COVID test, I have not been able to go to a bookstore to select books to review for this column. Fortunately, many wonderful picture books have come across the “bow” of my desk — some from publishers, some from friends and former students. Although I know the creators of these books, I would not share the stories with readers if they were not wonderful books. And these are wonderful books — so let’s get started.
A Rose Named Peace
We are in the season of roses and, yes, we have a picture book for that. “A Rose Named Peace” written by Barbara Carroll Roberts and illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline (Candlewick, 2022; $18.99) tells the story of the famous yellow and pink rose, called “The Peace Rose” in the United States.
A Rose Named Peace
Francis Meilland grew up on a farm in France and he loved roses. On his family farm “they grew fruit trees, vegetables, and roses.” They shipped rose plants all over Europe. Francis always knew he wanted to be a rose grower and at 17 he realized he wanted to create new roses. Soon he was cross-pollinating roses and waiting — waiting for roses to make rose hips, waiting for seeds to sprout, plants to grow, flowers to bloom. There were disappointments — “so many things went wrong. Sudden frosts killed fragile seedlings. Mildew and insects …” Even the family dog damaged roses when she buried her bones.
But gradually Francis Meilland grew roses he wanted to share with others. He sent his new roses to Robert Pyle, an American rose grower, who loved them so much he offered to sell Meilland roses in America. Then in 1939 Meilland grew a rose — “with petals shaded from pale ivory at the center through creamy yellow to a fringe of deep pink at their outer edges. No one had ever seen a rose like it.” Francis promised to send cuttings to Robert Pyle and to growers in Europe. Then came World War II. Francis quickly sent off his rose cuttings, not knowing whether they had arrived. Except for a tiny patch, the Meilland roses were dug to make room for vegetables.
When the war finally ended, Francis received a letter from Robert Pyle. He had received the rose. It thrived in his beds. It thrived all over the United States where he had sent it. Robert Pyle had no way of knowing if Francis was still alive, but he knew gardeners would want to grow the rose and needed to name it. He decided to call it the Peace Rose.
An afterword tells us that Robert Pyle had patented the rose in Meilland’s name. With proceeds from the patent, Francis Meilland was able to rebuild the family’s rose business after the war. Francis’s grandchildren still grow and ship roses. This is a book to read with a child or to give to a rose-growing friend, a story for all ages.
We move from a real rose to a pretend animal — “Iamasaurus” (Cameron Kids, 2022; $15.99). Anne Ylvisaker, one-time resident of Cedar Rapids, has written a rollicking, full-of-fun book that begins, “Iamasaurus! /I am Noodlevorous, /one of the genus Ridiculorous. / Mothers abhor us. /Babies adore us./We romp and we stomp and/we chomp on the floras.”
Mark Hoffman’s lively illustrations show us kids romping through a dinosaur museum, having so much fun. But there’s science too, carefully spliced into the story, as the words and pictures show us maxillae, mandibles, clavicles, ribs, scapulars, humeri, tibias, fibs. I can imagine having great fun with this book, with one reader or many finding those body parts on our own bodies.
And even more fun at the end of the book: “You can join us;/you’ve got your own/loud vocal cords. /We’re a chorus, /Let’s ROARus!” Readers are invited to roar, romp, and stomp. “Weareasaurus!” With this warm, energetic book Anne has given a gift to librarians and lap readers.
Mama and Mommy and Me in the Middle
Lap readers like stories about families and we have two wonderful new books about families. “Mama and Mommy and Me in the Middle,” written by Nina LaCour and illustrated by Kaylani Juanita (Candlewick, 2022; $17.99) tells a warm story of a young child missing her Mommy, who leaves for a trip one Monday morning and tells the girl and Mama, “I’ll be home on Sunday.”
Every day the girl misses her Mommy. On Tuesday she learns that others on her circle rug are missing loved ones. On Wednesday she calls her Mommy. Thursday, Friday, Saturday pass, also marked by missing. On Sunday she makes a bouquet for Mommy. But when Mommy arrives — “this isn’t a day for kisses,” the child says. Mommy understands missing is hard. And that quiet bit of understanding is enough to get back to “Mama and Mommy and me in the middle.” This is such a lovely book, packed with quiet, homey details of life going on when a loved one is gone. All kids have experienced a parent gone for a little or a long time and will love hearing this story of love and caring.
Me and Ms. Too
Love and understanding move the plot in “Me and Ms. Too,” written by Laura Ruby and illustrated by Dung (“Dzung”) Ho (Balzer & Bray, 2022; $17.99). “When Dad married Ms. Too, everything changed.” …”My dad was my dad and nobody else’s.” Miss Too was too different, “She couldn’t make meatballs or muffins or funny little bunnies. /She didn’t cut the kiwis right.” Molly can see no good coming from having Miss Too in the family.
Me and Ms. Too
But then, one day at the zoo, Molly sees a kitten and a big cat eating kibble, playing ball, napping together. “‘There are all kinds of families,’ said Ms. Too.” Back home, Molly decides to help Ms. Too bake cookies. They mix and cut together — underwear, angry thumbs, big cats and little cats. Miss Too shapes the last piece of dough into a heart. “You will always be your daddy’s heart, you know. And mine, too.”
The spread after that is glorious with shared activities, laughing, cookie-making, swimming, reading. And finally, “Maybe we are a funny kind of family. But I like that about us. We cannot be reminded too often that there are many kinds of families — bound together by laughing, crying, singing, cookie-baking, and story-sharing.
Enjoy these stories — just right for a quiet late summer afternoon.