Lost for Words, by Natalie Russell; Peachtree Publishers, $16.95, 32 pages, ages 4-6.

Most writers with a deadline to meet have at least on occasion been afflicted with a debilitating case of writer’s block. In Natalie Russell’s latest offering we meet Tapir, a creature armed with fresh supplies of pencil and paper but utterly unable find a suitable topic. In search of inspiration he visits Giraffe the poet, Hippo the adventure writer and Flamingo the composer.  All write in different ways, and although Tapir doesn’t realize that right away, he soon discovers just how to express himself best.

Russell’s screen prints are at once gentle and bright. Charming illustrations of jungle creatures are set against a backdrop of saturated colors, creating a sub-Saharan fantasy world of hot pink flowers and tangerine skies.  Russell’s message that creativity is unlimited and cannot be forced will motivate artists and writers of all ages to follow their own creative groove.   

Pub Date: March 1, 2014


Toad Weather, by Sandra Markle, illustrated by Thomas Gonzalez; Peachtree Publishers, $16.95, 32 pages, ages 4-7.

Sometimes it rains cats and dogs. In Philadelphia, it rains toads. Actually, the wet weather brings about the annual vernal toad migration, and on one particularly rainy March day little Ally and her family head out into the streets to see something spectacular - for a few weeks each spring, millions of toads across the country head to water in order to find mates and lay eggs, and the Roxborough neighborhood in Philadelphia is the real-life setting for this migration - there are even volunteers who set up ‘Toad Detours’ to ensure that the amphibians make it across the busy roads. (Toads flood the streets en route to nearby the ponds and reservoir.) Award-winning veteran author Sandra Markle has written over two hundred books for children, and each one is a treat - Toad Weather’s text is a lyrical sing-songy ode to a city transformed by rain, and to the everyday magic that takes place right at our feet. Gonzalez’s luminous pastel and watercolor images of wet toads and earthworms evoke the sense of wonder when we find magic in our everyday surroundings.  Don’t skip the informative author’s notes that explain how dedicated groups ensure the life cycle continues for these little croakers.