Celebrate the creative arts with playful books on drawing, painting, storytelling and photography.


I'm a Dirty Dinosaur

by Janeen Brian

illustrated by Ann James

Kane Miller, 2014, $11.99

This cute, prehistoric critter embodies the curiosity of a human tot, and its gender-free nature allows girls and boys alike to project themselves into its exuberant quest for the next playful experience. The rhyming, onomatopoetic text invites youngsters to sniff, snuff, tap, stamp, shake and drum on their tummies, just like Dirty Dinosaur. The illustrations carry through the theme of creative, sensory discovery, with renderings in colored pencil, watercolor and swathes and dashes of mud. The wipe-clean board-book format allows for any adventure, be that through playground or puddle. This book is as much fun to read aloud as it is to hear.

ages 3 - 7

Louise Loves Art

by Kelly Light

Balzer + Bray, 2014, $17.99

Armed with red spectacles and a love of drawing, Louise fills page after page with sketches of bike-riding bunnies, unicorns, tropical islands, her black cat and her little brother, Art. Louise is a spirited, outsized personality, like the picture-book characters Eloise and Olivia, but she is kinder and less self-dramatizing. When Art cuts up her favorite work of art to create something for Louise, she first scolds and then thanks him, and the final pages show them happily drawing together. Author/illustrator Kelly Light's lean, lively text and stunning pictures, with their generous white space and rich, red details, chronicle the travails and ambitions of a young artist who hopefully will return in a sequel.


Kay Kay's Alphabet Safari

by Dana Sullivan

Sleeping Bear Press, 2014, $15.99

Kay Kay is a Kenyan cab driver and artist who decorates the walls of the new village school. His alphabet-themed inspiration comes from the surrounding African animals, including a tea-swilling elephant, cloud-gazing rhino and galloping warthog. The surprise ending is fresh and funny, as the children help Kay Kay decide who or what should represent the letter "K" (Kay Kay!). Back matter enriches this engaging book with a glossary of Swahili terms and photos. There is also an author's note about the real Kay Kay and the Bungoma school upon which this story is based. Asante sana (thank you) to author/illustrator Dana Sullivan for this entertaining, educational abecedary and for a glimpse at school life on another continent.

Happy Birthday, Madame Chapeau

by Andrea Beaty

illustrated by David Roberts

Abrams, 2014, $18.95

The talented team of Andrea Beaty and David Roberts bring another bright, brilliant spirit to the page. As with Iggy Peck, Architect and Rosie Revere, Engineer, this rhyming tale features a creative force in need of a helping hand. Illustrations throughout of striped, bejeweled and feathered headgear back up the text's claim that Madame Chapeau is the "world's finest hatmaker," but they also touchingly hint at the reason for her loneliness: a table adorned with framed photos of a dashing young soldier, probably killed in a recent war. On her birthday, Madame dons her favorite hat only to have it stolen by a mischievous crow. As she scours the stylish city for it, she meets many folks eager to offer their hats (chef toque, cowboy Stetson), but she finally meets a fashion-forward knitter who becomes the perfect friend.

ages 8 - 12

Aesop's Fables

by Aesop

illustrated by Ayano Imai

If every home and school library could buy just one copy of these classic tales, this would be the volume to purchase. Ayano Imai's superb pictures add a piquant, surreal note to these 13 stories, credited to an ancient Greek storyteller. Included are ever-timely favorites-"The Hare and the Tortoise," "The Fox and the Grapes"-as well as less well-known fare about a vain jackdaw and a sneaky cat. Thankfully, the text and art do away with the didactic overtone and tacked-on "morals" that belabored previous versions for centuries. Through dialogue and gesture, these anthropomorphized animals now more subtly teach lessons about life, and the illustrations infuse the short dramas with a quirky, mysterious air.

Stand There! She Shouted

by Susan Goldman Rubin

illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline

Candlewick, 2014, $16.99

This fascinating, scrupulously researched biography of Julia Margaret Cameron sheds light on both the early history of photography and on women artists of the Victorian era. An English girl born in India, Cameron developed a keen appreciation of beauty and the skill to capture her vision through the lens. Her soft-focus portraits were scorned as sentimental and lacking in technique. But Cameron persevered and continued to take photos of children dressed as cherubs and a young couple as Romeo and Juliet. Within a few years, her photographs of scientists and writers, such as Charles Darwin and Alfred Lord Tennyson, were in great demand. By the time of her death, Cameron had taken thousands of photographs and broken new ground for this emerging art form. The book is beautifully illustrated with acrylic gouache paintings and Cameron's own photos.

He Laughed with His Other Mouths

by M.T. Anderson

Beach Lane, 2014, $17.99

Jasper Dash, Boy Technocrat, battles intergalactic villains in this sixth and final book in the "Pals in Peril" series. The novel is a delicious spoof of popular 20th century series fiction-full of plucky lads and gee-whiz adventure-but the narrative is deepened through a second tale carried in the footnotes. This story revolves around the boy, Busby Spence, who owns the books in 1942 and reads them while his father is at war. M.T. Anderson brilliantly balances humor with heart and touches lightly, but no less powerfully, on the solace and joys of reading. Our "thrumming nation" is full of the "silent talk" of stories that connect us all, as readers, though we may never meet. -

Mary Quattlebaum is the author of 20 award-winning children's books, most recently Jo MacDonald Hiked in the Woods. maryquattlebaum.com