Posted in Book, Book Review, Middle Readers, Reading

LISTEN, SLOWLY by Thanhhà Lai


Mai is twelve and has high hopes to spend her summer vacation on a nearby California beach with her friends, including a certain boy…expressed as “HIM” throughout.  But her family has a different idea for Mai.  She and her father are to take her grandmother, Bà, to Việt Nam, possibly for a short visit, possibly much longer.

Bà’s husband, Ông, never returned from the Việt Nam War where he was held captive as a POW.  A detective has found a guard who had been with Ông in the Prisoner of War camp.

Bà has need for closure after all of these years have passed since flight from her home country to California with her children and without her husband and since the war ended.

As Listen, Slowly begins, Mai certainly does not want to be going to Việt Nam.

This story is about relationships between family members, between friends.  It is about caring for others over oneself, about respect, and about country whether it is your country or your parents’ or your grandparents’.

Bà is old, yet she is wise.  She loves her family, her village in Việt Nam, and her home of Sài Gòn.  She misses Ông terribly.  Bà is given a special trip into the tunnel where Ông had been kept captive with the guard where she finds a message on a wall.  It was written by Ông, allowing Bà to have a sense of peace and to know closure with Ông.  Bà shares, Fate did not grant him the privilege to see our children reach adulthood or the pleasure to witness our wrinkles writing stories on our faces, but in the time we were allowed, we knew our treasure. 

Family and friends find room in Việt Nam to be with one another, listening to hearts and not just to words.  Bà says to Mai:  I tell you of loss, my child, so you will listen, slowly, and know that in life every emotion is fated to rear itself within your being.  Don’t judge it proper or ugly.  It’s simply here and yours.  Learning to listen, listening…slowly, is a beautiful lesson for all.

Mai returns to California a bit more grown up, cherishing her special relationship with her grandmother.

Just as Inside Out and Back Again is a unique and special story by Thanhhai Lai, this second book of hers is one as well.  Tangling, untangling, and weaving people and places together makes this an especially fine story.  Learning more about the Vietnamese culture broadens my perspective on a people who have endured much from many.

Age Range: 8 – 12 Years


A New York Times Book Review Notable Book

A Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year


Thanhhà Lai fled Việt Nam during the Việt Nam War. She was relocated in Alabama, USA.  She attended college at the University of Texas, Austin, graduating with a degree in journalism.  For two years, beginning in 1988, Ms. Lai worked for the Orange County, California, The Register newspaper, covering Little Saigon, the local Vietnamese community.  She went on to earn a Master of Fine Arts from New York University.  Thanhhà Lai settled in New York City, where she taught at Parsons, The New School for design.  She can be found @




Book Information

ISBN-13: 9780062229199
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers 
Edition description: Reprint
Publication date: 05/17/2016
Pages: 288
Product dimensions: 5.10(w) x 7.60(h) x 0.80(d)
Posted in Book, Book Review, Children's, Picture Book, Reading

LET’S PLAY! by Hervé Tullet



A yellow dot, a black pen line, giving directions to the reader…

A yellow dot wants to play with the reader, giving directions from page to page…

The reader follows the directions, joining the yellow dot, making loop-de-loops together, going through a tunnel, up stairs, over bumps…

A yellow dot joined by blue and red dots for more fun together…

The reader, always part of the fun…

Colors, shapes, movement and letting one’s imagination run with a yellow dot…

As with Mr. Tullet’s other books, Press Here and Mix It Up, there is silly fun to be had in this latest book.  Mr. Tullet is extremely creative in such a simple book.  A child, as well as adults, will smile and laugh and play throughout the book.  There is very little on most every page, yet each page speaks volumes.  I love this one as much as I did the other two.  I reviewed Press Here and Mix It Up also.  His illustrations are simple, “rendered in paint,” a few colors, a few shapes and lines…pages filled with play and joy!

Age Range:  3 – 5 Years


Hervé Tullet was born in 1958 in Normandy, France.  He studied fine arts and decorative arts.  He worked as an Art Director for ten years.  In 1994, his first children’s book was published by Seuil Jeunesse : Comment Papa a rencontré Maman.  He received the Prize for Non-Fiction at the Bologne International Book Fair in 1998 for Faut Pas Confondre.  He has written and illustrated well over 50 books for the young child and is now recognized as one of the world’s most innovative children’s authors.  Known in France as ‘the prince of preschool books’, Tullet invites young minds to think imaginatively.  He has written a book for adults called  Art Workshops for Children. 

He has lived in Paris most of his life, but recently moved to New York City.  Publishers Weekly wrote of this move 11/05/2015:  “Ideally, the move to the States will put Tullet in the position to be able to engage longer-term residencies.  ‘My idea is to find places with a big audience. I want to settle down, I want to share…. I want to figure out how to work with a neighborhood, city, town, art students, begin workshops with these people, with children, families, teachers and librarians…. And naturally in that time we could make art, and turn everything into an exhibition. The exhibition [itself] could be a work in progress, [which would] start from an empty space, and fill it for one, two, three months, whatever.’” **

You can find him on facebook @

and @





**  Author-Illustrator Hervé Tullet Moves to the U.S. by Publishers Weekly, Nov. 05, 2015:

Book Information

ISBN-13: 9781452154770
Publisher:  Chronicle Books, LLC
Publication date: 03/29/2016
Series: Let’s Play Games Series
Pages: 68
Product dimensions: 8.60(w) x 8.60(h) x 0.40(d)
Posted in Book, Book Review, Children's, Picture Book, Reading


Groundwood Logos Spine

Illustrator — Sydney Smith

A wordless picture book

A beautiful book for pondering the depths of gentleness, kindness, compassion

A little girl walks hand-in-hand with her father along city streets, waiting at a bus stop, and through a city park.  Along the way, she pauses to pick up volunteer flowers that are growing in sidewalk cracks, in walls, and in other spots.

The flowers, held tenderly in her hand, become gifts to the small, the lonely, the forgotten, the unseen, and the loved.  Her simple, sweet presents remind me of the humble, the innocent, and those who give love unconditionally.

The illustrations are done in sepia tones with black ink while the girl is wearing a red hooded jacket.  The closer she gets to home and the more flowers she sweetly gives, the more color appears on each successive page.  Sydney Smith uses pen, ink, watercolors, with digital editing.  The illustrations are perfect for this tale involving the reader’s eyes and heart.

This book has been printed in 10 countries and 8 different languages, having won awards in both the English and the French versions.

Age Range:  4 – 7 Years


In 2015, the French edition  won the Prix Libbylit in Belgium for best picture book.

Won the Governor General’s Award for Literary Merit/Illustrated Children’s Books in 2015, English

The New York Times Best Illustrated Books List

International Board on Books for Young People’s (IBBY) 2016 Elizabeth Mrazik-Cleaver Canadian Picture Book Award

Publishers Weekly Best Books of the Year

Goodreads Choice Awards Best Picture Books


JonArno Lawson has a BA in English Literature from McGill University.  He is the author of thirteen books for children and adults. He has given a large number of workshops in children’s poetry, and taught children’s poetry in the Master of Arts in Children’s Literature Program at Simmons College, Boston, and at iSchool at UBC.  He is a four-time winner of the Lion and the Unicorn Award for Excellence in North American Children’s Poetry. He lives in Toronto with his wife and three children.   He can be found @


Sydney Smith was born in rural Nova Scotia, and has been drawing since he was quite young. While attending NSCAD University, in Halifax, studying drawing and printmaking, he began to realize he enjoyed illustrating children’s books.  It allowed more freedom for creativity.  He has illustrated a number of children’s books.  He has won awards for a number of the books as illustrator, including an IBBY award for Sidewalk Flowers.  He now lives in Toronto and works in a shared studio space in Chinatown “and goes to the library or the Art Gallery of Ontario on his breaks.”  He can be found @


Book Information:
ISBN-13: 9781554984312
Publisher:  Groundwood Books
Publication date: 03/17/2015
Pages: 32
Product dimensions:  8.80(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.40(d)